Fierce and pure body horror in the desolation of urban life. Let Her Out – movie review

We stay in Canada, where my last blog post followed the footsteps of a very unusual vampire, this time to take a look at a much more conventional movie.

In fact, body horror – the sub-genre Let Her Out belongs to – has had its peak during the late 90s/early 00s, with many flicks exploiting the wearing away, rotting and destruction of human flesh caused by some sort of inner issue.

Let Her Out, written and directed by Cody Calahan (Antisocial and Antisocial 2), kicks off, quite in-your-face, with a prostitute tirelessly banging a stream of clients, until some stranger breaks into her motel room and rapes her. As a result, she gets pregnant and decides to kill herself and the baby by stubbing her own womb with scissors.

Let Her Out 223 years down the line, Helen (Alana LeVierge) begins to have awful visions and hallucinations that cause the girl to have black holes in her memory and to forget where she’s been and what she’s done for long periods of time. Lately, it’s discovered that Helen’s mom was the prostitute at the beginning of the movie – she was pregnant with twins and, when she tried to kill them, she succeeded only partially, since one of the foetuses attached to the other in order to survive.

Continue reading “Fierce and pure body horror in the desolation of urban life. Let Her Out – movie review”

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The Classics of Horror #17 – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is the only horror movie to be awarded for Best Picture by the Academy and third to be nominated in the category after The Exorcist (1973) and Jaws (1975).

When I personally think about this masterpiece, I feel like this is the first modern entrance in the Classics of Horror list, which is probably due to the fact that I was born the year The Silence of the Lambs was released.

Silence of the Lambs 1The film is obviously centred around the infamous Hannibal Lecter (played masterfully by Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist with a bit of an obsession for murders and cannibalism. In prison for his crimes, Lecter is approached by young and inexpert FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who needs the serial killer’s help to put behind the bars another psychopath: Buffalo Bill, portrayed by Ted Levine.

This inventive set-up (based on the 1998 novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris) makes for an enthralling cat and mouse game, where it’s unsure who’s in control and two great villains (Lecter and Buffalo Bill) create nearly unsolvable puzzles.

In all honestly, I don’t know what to say about this movie that hasn’t been said tons of times before: after all, The Silence of the Lambs represents only the third case in cinema history in which a movie received all the “Big Five” Oscars – best picture, best actor, best actress, best direction and best screenplay!

Therefore, I decided to provide you with some ‘fun facts’ (curiosities, if you will), about the movie.

1)   Gene Siskel, one of the greatest movie reviewers ever (and a very inspirational figure to me) dismissed the movie as a “star-studded freak show” in a 1992 interview.

2)   Gene Hackmann was meant to be directing the movie and starring as Hannibal Lecter. Although I’m sure he  would have done a great job, this sliding door scenario would have deprived us of one of the most iconic performances in horror/thriller history, by Hopkins.

Silence of the Lambs 23)   The infamous scene in which Doctor Lecter creepily hisses to Clarice behind the glass of his cell was improvised by Hopkins, who meant it as a comic relief! Now, please tell me that Anthony Hopkins is not a creepy person in general…

4)   Daniel Day-Lewis (who I’m in love with as an actor) and Sean Connery were also considered for the part of Hannibal Lecter. We would either have had an eccentric, lunatic killer or an extremely polite and manipulative murderer: Hopkins mixes these two aspects perfectly.

5)   Hopkins used people’s common fear of doctors and dentists to ramp up the scares.

6)   Scott Glenn, one of the actors involved in the project, was taken to Quantico, Virginia to listen to tapes of serial killers raping, killing and torturing their victims, in order to have him more immersed in the character and story. As a result, he allegedly walked out in tears and, soon after, became a strong supporter of the death penalty. This anecdote should make rethink everybody who doesn’t consider The Silence of the Lambs a horror movie!

7)   Buffalo Bill’s character was shaped around three notorious serial killers: Ted Bundy, Gary H. Heidnik and Ed Gein.

8)   Bill’s dancing scene was not in the screenplay. But it’s terrifying nonetheless, unlike some scene we’ve seen recently in a M. Night’s movie, right?

Silence of the Lambs 39)   The skull of the moth in the movie poster is borrowed from a Salvador Dalí’s photo

10)                  The amazing title of both novel and film comes from a dialogue in the book (reused in the movie) in which Lecter compares the screaming of lambs to that of his victims.

Pet Sematary (1989) – movie review

I owe this one to Candace Krissie (hope I spelled your name right, my friend), who solved a puzzle in one of my previous posts and got herself a review as a reward!

Her pick was Pet Sematary, another Stephen King’s adaptation, this time around adapted by the author himself to a movie. This is one of the few cases in which King worked on a movie first hand, besides the infamous Maximum Overdrive (1986).

Luckily, though, Pet Sematary is ten times better than the first King’s attempt behind the camera. Actually, I forgot how great this movie was until I picked up and watched it again.

Pet Sematary 1The story is rather simple: a super happy and cute family, with two kids and a gorgeous cat, move to a house between a motorway where huge, fat trucks pass and a pet cemetery (misspelled by some kid in sematary). Obviously, many pets have been killed and buried in that ground, which is what happens to Winston Churchill (that’s the name of the cat… nice!).

Consequently, a sweet, old neighbour tells the dad that he should take the cat corpse to a burial ground behind the titular ‘pet sematary’ is located, because, over there, weird stuff happens: among which, of course, dead beings coming back to life. The dad decides to give it a try and, eventually, Church resuscitates… he’s just mean as hell, now!

What if, say, one of the kids dies? That would put daddy in a sticky situation. And I don’t want to spoil an almost 30-year-old film, but something must happen, right?

Pet Sematary 2.jpgI love this movie! Firstly, the whole look and feel, with the evident late 80s-early 90s vibe, is just amazing: it drags you into the movie immediately. Secondly, Pet Sematary makes great use of set-design and location, which make you feel captivated by the environment and the old legend and myths.

Yet, the characters and their performances are great, probably my favourite part of the movie. The kids, especially the young boy, are incredibly adorable and the parents so loving and caring. Even the neighbour looks and sounds like a lovely grandpa. All this character introduction and development is fundamental and I think Pet Sematary does a great job at making you feel for them and, possibly, be deeply sad when something dramatic affects this family.

Pet Sematary 3Despite the established atmosphere, the movie gets very dark and graphic towards the end. It’s not A Serbian Film type-of-deal, obviously, but it makes for an effective contrast with the happy family build-up. Also, said grand finale that I won’t give away, is very intense and well executed.

Even though I’m a sucker for this King’s adaptation, I can’t deny the presence of a few flaws. To begin with, at points the film looks a bit campy and the quite mediocre special effects don’t help. Furthermore, there is some clear exposition thrown in the mix that seems unnecessary.

If you can overlook these minute issues, though, you have to check Pet Sematary if you haven’t yet. Finally, I admire the whole symbolic discussion on ‘how to deal with the consequences of death’, which is something not to be overlooked. Strongly recommend it!

The Classics of Horror #11 – Alien (1979)

Upon re-watching Alien for the umpteenth time last night, I love it even more than I remember.

Do you want to know why? Because it almost made me forget about Alien: Covenant

alien-1979-movie-review-ridley-scott-science-fiction-film-xenomorph-john-hurtAll jokes apart, Alien is a masterpiece of horror cinema in space. It tells the story of the crew of a space vessel (the Nostromo) that perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call from an uncharted planet. When one of the crew members is attached by a mysterious, spider-like creature, the others take him back on the ship to check on him and, as you know, all hell breaks loose.

The chest-bursting scene, the fast growth process of the xenomorph, the revelation of Ash being an android, the badassery of Ripley, the design of the creature, the atmosphere on the Nostromo: everything in Alien delivers awesomeness.

You probably already know the stuff I’ve written so far. Therefore, let me explain why I think Alien deserves a spot in a classic of horror list and what I love about it.

Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien paved the way to all the Sci-Fi monster movies that came out within the next 40 years or so from its release. The sense of dread and isolation delivered by this film is something many directors have tried to achieve with mixed results, never reaching the level of Alien nonetheless.

Such atmosphere gradually builds up throughout the movie, but it’s already there when, after the opening credits, the space vessel is shown in its entire, desolated form. The darkness surrounding every single scene helps to keep the viewer on the edge, without the need of loud noises, jump-scares and characters overreacting.

MV5BMjY1NzQ3Mzk3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM2NTUyMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1495,1000_AL_.jpgIndeed, the crew members and their actions are also what sets this movie apart from endless of imitators: their comradery is palpable since the very first scenes, as well as the internal struggles they have with each other and with the protocols they must follow. As opposed to them, Ash (masterfully played by Ian Holm) looks strangely out of place, being rarely nice to his colleagues. Thus, Ash’s reveal as a synthetic comes unexpected and surprising.

Ah, the good old days when the evil android wasn’t a posh, British asshole with power deliriums!

tumblr_m4qfv49wnW1rs1ef6o1_500Yet, mentioning the characters is impossible to overlook to Ripley. Sigourney Weaver pulls it off in this film, being able to seamlessly switch from one feeling to the other according to the situation. Every time I re-watch the scene in which Ripley tells Parker off, my level of testosterone increases and I felt so pumped I could fight a xenomorph bare-handed!

Okay, that was silly, but you got the point. The character of Ripley was so ahead of his time: a heroine who’s more resourceful than every other man on the ship and transmits charisma every time is on screen. Ridley Scott, thanks for Ellen Ripley!

And thanks for the xenomorphs. It’s a bit sad that, in almost 40 years, none could come up with a creature design better than the one in Alien. Simultaneously, though, this is a clear and undisputable merit of makeup team, cinematographers and director of the movie. Lurking in the dark, waiting for its next victim, the xenomorph is a perfect killing machine that needs no motivation or any further explanation for its existence. Nor did it need an origin story, damn Alien: Covenant!

Yet, Alien is scary. I know, as a horror reviewer I should use this adjective more often: unfortunately, it’s not easy to find something that really frightens the audience.

Alien, though, delivers. In my opinion, it’s a timeless, suspenseful generator of fear and uneasiness.

In all honesty, I don’t know what else to say about it. Upon my 7th (seventh!) view of the film, I still didn’t find any flaw. To me, Alien is technically perfect – yes, the final explosion of the Nostromo at the end looks quite dated, but that’s it.

Alien_1979_Directors_Cut_1080p_Bluray_DTS_x264_VBesides this tiny detail, the movie holds up perfectly since it’s all practical: the Nostromo, the xenomorph, the chest-bursting scene, the decapitation of Ash… they are all made through practical effects that will never ever look old or dated.

Do yourself a favour and watch Alien now if you haven’t seen it yet. Otherwise, if you have, just re-watch it right away and appreciate its greatness.

An interesting meta-cinema experiment. Cut Shoot Kill – movie review

Cut Shoot Kill is an indie horror/thriller written and directed by Michael Walker who made a name for himself with Chasing Sleep starring Jeff Daniels and in collaboration with Lions Gate.

After failing a big Hollywood career (so far), Walker stepped back and released Cut Shoot Kill with a smaller budget, independent production companies and a cast of unknown.

This movie features an aspiring movie star, Serena (Alexandra Socha), who gets offered a lead role in a horror flick by mysterious director Alabama Chapman (Alex Hurt).

She accepts the offer due to the inspiring passion Alabama shows during the interview and embarks on three weeks of shooting in the North American woods, where neither Internet nor phone signals work.

Cut shoot kill 2Soon enough, Serena realises that the obsession for truth shown by Alabama and his crew might be more dangerous than it seemed.

Although not entirely original, the concept of meta-cinema (making a movie inside a movie that assesses audiences’ expectations) strongly emerges in Cut Shoot Kill.

Yet, contrarily to other films in the past, Walker’s latest flick feels entirely unpretentious. The social commentary is there, but it’s never overwhelming and not in a single scene hides the entertainment value of the film.

Subtly, Cut Shoot Kill asks the same questions to the viewer: What do modern horror audiences want? What point would you get to in order to make a successful film?

This themes are well explored throughout the runtime (97 minutes) and the answers are never given through exposition, instead they are hinted at through dialogues and characters’ motivations/feelings.

Cut Shoot kill 3In regards to the characters, I believe the message of this film would have been delivered in a much more potent way if the acting was better. The performances in Cut Shoot Kill range from excellent (Serena and Alabama) to awfully over-the-top (Serena’s boyfriend and the producer of Alabama’s movie), with everyone else lying in the middle being quite forgettable.

Cut shoot kill 4.jpgRegardless, the atmosphere and tone of the movie are spot-on: as a meta-slasher, Cut Shoot Kill doesn’t over-rely on gore (other than one highly effective scene), but builds up tension through good cinematography, excellent score and an overall sense of threat that surrounds the victims.

Cut shoot kill 4.pngI might be completely wrong, but I also perceived a menacing sexual sub-text to the film, which heightens the level of tension in the scenes where the three girls (Serena and her co-stars in Alabama’s project) are involved.

Besides the acting, my biggest issue with the film revolves around a sub-plot involving the previous Alabama’s female lead, who starred in the 7 short movies the director made before hiring Serena and mysteriously disappeared after the seventh film was shot. I found it rather useless in the overall story and distracting from the main focus of Cut Shoot Kill.

Yet, I see the ending being polarising: some might love it, some might hate it. Personally, I believe the film should have ended with a particular scene which hints to the isolation of Serena (you know what I’m talking about if you saw/will see the movie). However, the actual ending is not terrible and, although a bit convoluted, fulfils the character’s arc of the lead actress.

In conclusion, there is something I can’t quite grasp that holds me back from loving Cut Shoot Kill. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend to watch it if you’re intrigued by its unconventional plot. Cheers!

The Dark Avengers recruit another member. Annabelle: Creation – movie review

After watching Annabelle (2014) I had little anticipation for this prequel that fits in The Conjuring universe and revolves around a possessed doll.

However, the direction by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, 2016) and, mostly, an astounding 69% on RottenTomatoes, got me curious and slightly less negative about Annabelle: Creation.

What’s my opinion on it, then?

First, the plot: a group of orphan girls move to the house of Samuel Mullins and his wife, Esther, who, 12 years prior, have lost their beloved daughter Annabelle – killed in a hit and run accident.

Annabelle Creation 2When one of the girls, Janice, a young orphan who suffers from polio, sneaks into a locked room, she finds a creepy doll, unwittingly releasing the demon who begins to terrorise the girls, with a special interest in Janice.

The film is set in the 50s, in an isolated house a few miles away from a small Americana town. Compared to the first Annabelle film, Creation smartly chooses a location and an environment highly suitable for a haunted story.

Furthermore, Sandberg had the clever idea to untie its movie from the awful Annabelle, going for a prequel that guaranteed him more freedom rather than continuing with the ridiculous storyline of the 2014 flick.

Annabelle Creation 1Although driven by young actors, the performances in Creation are compelling overall: Talitha Bateman (Janice) and her best friend Linda (well portrayed by Lulu Wilson) are amazing in their roles. Yet, Sandberg decides to switch the lead between the two girls, making for a fresh storytelling in an otherwise formulaic horror flick.

Don’t worry, though, if you’re looking for the same, comforting bad acting that characterises the majority of horror flicks: Anthony LaPaglia (Samuel Mullins) drags himself around with the same facial expression he had while he was looking for missing people in 160 episodes of Without a Trace.

Besides some excellent performance, nice locations and good camera-work, Annabelle: Creation is as dull as Anthony LaPaglia in his role.

Without spoiling anything, this film doesn’t even have a plot twist: it’s predictable, the jump-scares are obvious (only one, in a staircase scene, got me) and the characters do what you expect them to.

Annabelle Creation 3Yet, Creation tries too hard to fit within The Conjuring universe and, simultaneously, to recreate Insidious (2010). The demon’s victims are all female (alike in The Conjuring), the jump-scares come from loud noises and hideous faces (Insidious), the prevalent colours are different shades of grey (The Conjuring) and the demon is the spit image of Lipstick-Face from Insidious.

The doll is just thrown in the mix, because, let’s be frank, the production company wants to fill up The Conjuring universe with spin-offs about the evil spirits that featured in the two Conjuring movie.

There is even a hint to the Nun in a scene of Creation. I expect Warner Brothers to come up with a Dark Avengers movie in a few years, featuring Annabelle, The Nun and The Crooked Man!

In conclusion, Annabelle: Creation is a massive improvement upon Annabelle. Although even a feature-length film about a dog pooping in the streets would be a better movie than Annabelle.

At the same time, though, Creation falls into all the stereotypical horror clichés we’ve seen tons of times before. It’s an enjoyable film based on a silly premise and unimaginative storytelling that, at the end, leaves you with nothing more than one hour and fifty minutes of mindless entertainment. Cheers!

Everything wrong with Alien: Covenant (spoiler filled)

Have you ever been let down – big time – by, say, a friend who turned out to be a huge disappointment instead of the amazing person you depicted him/her to be?

Well, said friend is Alien: Covenant (2017) for me. I love Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), I find Prometheus (2012) mentally challenging in the best way possible, I like Alien 3 (1992) and I even enjoy Alien vs Predator (2004) as a guilty pleasure.

Naturally, then, my expectations for Alien: Covenant were very high. I so decided to venture beyond the surface of the film to explain why Ridley Scott’s latest movie is a huge disappointment for me.

In order to do that, I will have to include spoilers for both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant – if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want its story ruined, check out my spoiler free review of Alien: Covenant. Also, I decided to focus on the negative elements of this motion pictures, meaning: the movie is not entirely rubbish, but here I’ll talk about everything wrong with it.

For a big fan of the franchise as I am, Alien: Covenant was really painful to (re)watch. Therefore, I have to thank my girlfriend who sat through it with me and endured my sarcastic and frustrated comments during the runtime.

The film opens with David’s (Michael Fassbender) backstory that we get to know through a dialogue between the synthetic and Mr Weyland (Guy Pearce). Although interesting, the scene raises more questions rather than starting to answer those left hanging in Prometheus. On top of that, it seems to set a Prometheus-ish tone that, on the contrary, will be betrayed as soon as the title appears on screen.

Soon enough, Alien: Covenant turns into an Alien movie, rather than a continuation of Prometheus. I’ll explain later why this is a bad thing.

Everything wrong 1.jpgWe are now on the Covenant, a spaceship directed to an uninhabited planet they hope to colonise. Out of 15 crew members, including Walter (another humanoid played by Fassbender as well), there are three married couples. This is the first sign of lazy writing.

No risky mission in the universe will allow couples to travel together… unless their inclusion has the sole purpose of convey emotions that, otherwise, would be lacking due to little acting skills of most of the cast members and non-existent chemistry on screen.

Basically, the first act of the movie is a big build-up in which nothing unseen happens and the characters appear one-dimensional: Walter-Fassbender and the dialogue between Daniels and the captain are the only enjoyable moments.

As you know if you saw the film or read my previous Alien: Covenant review, most of the crew lands on a habitable planet from which they received a suspicious signal by an unknown source.

Once they arrive on the planet, we are struck by incredible landscapes backed up by spotless cinematography and gorgeous visual effects.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere of awe is ruined in 0.2 seconds by a crew member who approaches a field saying: “Believe me, this is wheat, I know wheat”. No shit Sherlock! This brief sequence sums up both the disposability of the characters and the lazy storytelling featured in Covenant.

Finally, something relevant happens: two of the crew members are infected by an airborne unknown virus – which, who saw Prometheus, would recognise as the lethal weapon transported by the Engineers on their spacecraft.

However, the ‘infection sequences’ are highly predictable and reminiscent of those B-movies in which a teenager goes to take a leak and gets butchered by the killer. In fact, all the ‘thrilling moments’ are foreseeable in Covenant and, therefore, not as effective as they could have been.

Then, two monstrous creatures burst from the back and chest of our unlucky infected characters and furiously attack the rest of the crew and kill some of them in the goriest way possible. As I said in my previous review, these sequences would have been awesome if only horrendous Dutch angles, poor lighting, nauseating camera-work wouldn’t be there.

Oh, and it also would have been nice to have characters who don’t act like complete assholes!

Everything wrong 2Furthermore, the Neomorphs (these creatures born from the airborne virus that impregnates humans) feature very poor CGI: in both Alien and Aliens, the Xenomorphs are entirely practical and, therefore, frightening and timeless. On the contrary, the monsters in Covenant look already fake and, soon enough, will look dated.

The attack sequences, very fast-paced, are followed by a caped saviour who rescue the remaining crew members and take them to a ‘safe place’ (i.e. the now uninhabited city of the Engineers). The mysterious rescuer reveals himself as David, who landed on the planet with Doc Elizabeth Shaw 10 years before.

Now, the pace gets, once again, slow, showing how pacing and matching of tones represent one of the biggest issues of the film.

Everything wrong 4David carries the plot along and, while providing a very interesting backstory to his character, gives the audience some involuntarily laughable scenes (“look at me, I’ll do the fingering”) and spoon feeds the viewers, filling the gaps between Prometheus and Covenant.

David-Fassbender explains to Walter-Fassbender that the Engineers’ civilisation was, accidentally, destroyed by David himself who, unwillingly, dropped tons on lethal weapons on them and crashed the spaceship in the process, killing doctor Shaw in the crash.

Everything wrong 3.jpgIt’s very obvious, as it will be discovered a few scenes later, that David wanted to kill the Engineers in one of his delusions of grandeur. He, also, killed Elizabeth Shaw by infecting her with the virus in order to give birth to a new species. It’s clear, at this point, that David’s motivations revolve around his desire to be creator instead of mere creature.

However, the mass massacre of the Engineers seems clearly motivated by Ridley Scott’s decision not to continue the Prometheus universe expansion. In this way, we will probably never get answers to the questions cleverly raised in the 2012 film.

Anyhow, the story progresses with the Neomorph getting killed by the captain of the crew who, then, is guided by David to a Facehuggers nest where, obviously, he gets impregnated and gives birth to the first Xenomorph.

Wait a second, weren’t there two Neomorph? What happened to the second one? The film doesn’t bother to give us any answer, again. This is a humongous plot hole which I don’t know how can be overlooked by critics and viewers.

Also, at the end of Prometheus, a Xenomorph bursts out of the chest of the last remaining Engineer. However, in this case the creature is the product of a mixture of Engineer’s and big octopus-like monster’s DNA. How the hell two different DNA combinations (octopus + Engineer and human + Facehugger) can give birth to the same creature?

This goes beyond the suspension of disbelief. Mind you, I’m not criticising the genetic/scientific aspect of it. Instead, I’m pointing at the lack of coherence within the Alien universe.

everything wrong 5Back to the story: the first Xenomorph bursts out of the captain’s chest and David is before him, putting his hands up. What’s the reaction of the laughable CGI creature? It imitates David and puts its hands up as well! That’s too much to take. I can’t believe Ridley Scott turned the most iconic monster in cinema history (his monster) into a freaking pet!

Everything wrong 6.jpgObviously, the Xenomorph has an exponential growth, gets to the adult stage quickly and starts to hunt down the rest of the crew. Only Tennessee (McBride) and Daniels (clear replacement for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley) survive, after the two Xenomorphs (oh yeah, there is another one because another Facehugger previously impregnated another disposable character) kill the rest of the crew.

Meanwhile, there is a face-off between David-Fassbender and Walter-Fassbender, which ends with the evil David in disguise replacing the loyal Walter on the spaceship.

Before I conclude, I want to pinpoint two major issues that bothered me ever since I watched Covenant for the first time.

Firstly, David wants to create the perfect living creature and, finally, become a creator. However, in the original Alien movies, the Xenomorphs weren’t created by anyone in particular. Their society resembled a hive, with a queen giving birth to eggs filled with Facehuggers who stayed dormant until they got in contact with other living beings. Covenant ignores all of that and originates a parallel, less impactful Alien universe.

Everything wrong 7Secondly, why would David not be fully satisfied with the Neomorphs and want to improve upon them? In the original three movies (I refuse to consider Resurrection part of the franchise), the Xenomorphs are perfect killing machines. In Covenant, instead, the Neomorphs look faster, scarier and, above all, their system of reproduction is airborne, meaning they’re easier to create and spread.

All in all, Alien: Covenant is not an awful movie per se. However, is the worst film possible for the Alien franchise: it confuses the storyline, tones down the terror deriving from the Xenomorphs, tries unsuccessfully to recreate the same atmosphere of better Alien films and ignores the existence of Prometheus. Simply put, Covenant is a bloody mess.

If you are wondering my personal ranking for the Alien franchise, there you go:

 

Alien
Aliens
Prometheus
Alien 3
Alien vs Predator (yes, I’m serious)
Alien: Covenant 

Alien: Resurrection
Alien vs Predator: Requiem

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!

Cannibalism meets coming-of-age story in the latest French success. Raw – movie review

Raw is a French-Belgium film written and directed by Julia Ducournau, at her debut behind the camera in a feature-length film.

Substantially marketed as the new Martyrs (2009), according to the legend that people fainted and puked in the earliest screenings, audiences went into Raw expecting an extremely violent, gruesome horror film filled with stomach-turning scenes and I-can’t-watch-this moments.

Instead, Ducournau’s film is a coming-of-age tale with cannibalism elements thrown in the mix.

Raw 2Raw tells the story of rookie student and lifelong vegetarian Justine, who arrives at a veterinary school to start college. A college that looks more like a prison, where the rookies are bullied and obligated to go through different and messed-up challenges. One of those consists of eating a raw rabbit kidney, which Justine refuses to do, at first, and then reluctantly accepts pushed by her older sister Alexia.

From that moment on, Justine develops an insane passion for raw meat that definitely goes too far…

Despite Raw was mis-marketed and the trailers made it look a restless run throughout violence and blood, it’s been acclaimed by audience and critics as one of the best horror movies in recent years.

In all honesty, I struggle to understand why.

Extremely slow-paced, the plot drags from scene to scene, with elongated shots, slow – and quite unrealistic – dialogues, nauseous sequences of rave parties where stroboscopic lightening and delirious music that will give you nothing but migraine.

Raw 3Also, the acting is quite slow and somewhat frustrating; whether it’s because of the script or the cast’s skills, every character in this movie is unlikable. Although, to be fair, Garance Marillier (who portrays Justine) conveys a wide range of emotions and carries the plot along fairly well.

However, my biggest issues with Raw consist of more than that.

Raw GIF.gifFirst of all, everything looks highly implausible. I know, I know: it’s a horror-drama about cannibalism, I shouldn’t expect everything to make sense. Nonetheless, as I stated previously in other reviews, each and every single element should be realistic within the universe of a film. And, in this regard, Raw fails on every level: the unexplained absence of adults, the rampant craziness of the students – who do drugs, destroy facilities, throw food to each other without being stopped by any form of security, the constant lack of explanations make for a very unreliable story.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I understand that the director went for the dream-like, somewhat oneiric route. Nevertheless, this premise might work in a movie like It Follows (2014), set in a timeless and undefined world, but it doesn’t in Raw, where the audience is supposed to believe the plot is taking place in contemporary times.

Which is my second biggest issue with this film. Its atmosphere, backed up by cinematography and photography, makes for an artsy film that is artsy-fartsy for the pure sake of it. In other words, it looks frustratingly pretentious and tries too hard to set itself apart from the other horror flicks.

Again, I must reiterate that I’ve got no problem with artsy horror movies (The Eyes of my Mother – is one of my favourite films in 2017), but the style must be supported by strong and effective contents. Otherwise, the product is a flop. And, sorry to say that, Raw is a flop – at least in my opinion.

However, there are a couple of redeeming qualities, namely the first plot twist – there is also a second one at the very end, but it’s predictable and, again, unsatisfying. Also, the locations are amazing and the fact that the entire movie was shot on location is to be praised.

Furthermore, the absence of false-scares and the lack of gratuitous brutality are a pleasant surprise.

Nevertheless, the standout in Raw is the score: one of the best I’ve listened to the whole year, but unfortunately inadequate to the film. Still, I recommend everyone to download it, it’s worth listening to!

Overall, though, Raw is a quite boring film, featuring an unbalanced pace, senseless sequences, disappointing acting and an uninteresting story. Sincerely, I found it very overhyped and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, unless you want to watch it purely out of curiosity. Cheers!

One of the better horror anthologies in recent times. The Dark Tapes – movie review

The Dark Tapes is a horror anthology split in three chapters, each one of them bond to the other by a fourth story that intercuts between them, also establishing an overall frame.

First time feature filmmakers Michael McQuown and Vincent J. Guastini directed and co-produced the flick – a genre-defying, found-footage combination of supernatural elements, Sci-Fi and thriller.

You can imagine my reaction when I sat down to watch a found-footage anthology, since I’m not the biggest fan of anthologies nor of found-footage.

Nevertheless, The Dark Tapes highly surprised me, being one of the genuinely scariest movies I’ve seen in 2017. If not the scariest.

Above all, I wasn’t frightened by jump-scares – which are almost non-existent in the film. Instead, I was sincerely creeped out by the dreadful colours, the dark and threatening atmosphere and the amazing sounds’ design. Yet, the performances, provided by a cast of unknown actors, range from a decent to a very convincing level, the pinacols being the first and the third chapters.

The.Dark_.Tapes_.2016-fanart10The first story (The Hunters and The Hunted), the first tape if you will, is the one I’ve been more impressed by. It tells the story of a young couple that moves to a new house which might eventually turn out to be haunted. Very reminiscent of Paranormal Activity (which is one of the reasons why I strongly dislike found-footage films), this segment concentrates all the tension within the short runtime of 25 minutes, demonstrating that a short film is where this kind of plots belongs. Despite an excellent build-up, the aspect I loved about it the most is the twist, a very clever one, which spoofs and enriches at the same time the whole paranormal activity horror sub-genre.

Dark TapesCam Girls instead tells the story of two lesbian lovers, that make a living performing sexual activities online (for paying customers). Their online chats are filled with terrifying glitches that hint – in a quite evident way – to something dark and devilish. Although the overall atmosphere and the lack of music make for an unnerving experience, the mediocre acting and the obvious ending scale this segment down, making it the less powerful in the entire anthology, in my opinion.

118147Amanda’s Revenge is the following tale that revolves around a young student drugged and raped in a party who, then, becomes obsessed with stopping persistent unwanted paranormal intruders. Enriched by strong symbolism and carried along by a resourceful female character, this story about alien abductions benefitted from good cast choices, believable turns of events and dreadful look and feel. The ‘ending-ending’ is quite cliché and meaningless, but it doesn’t ruin the segment either.

The.Dark_.Tapes_.2016-fanart32The frame which interlinks these three stories together is represented by To Catch a Demon, where we follow three paranormal investigators that take their investigations into an uncharted new dangerous territory. Not particularly original nor unseen before, this tape is still able to scare me shitless, due to its highly earie score, slumber and threatening tone and, above all, terrifying creature realised entirely with practical effects.

Overall, I found The Dark Tapes surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining. On IMDb I came across this comment which sums up my opinion on the movie: “For an indie film made on just a $65,000 budget though, I think [the result] is mostly impressive”. I also believe this flick shows the talent of McQuown who wrote the script, directed two segments, served as film’s editor and cinematographer all by himself.

Strongly recommended guys, don’t let this film fly under your radars. Cheers!