The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) EXPLAINED.

I’ve been waiting to write this since the moment I got to the end of Oz Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter!

Blackcoat's Daughter 1If you haven’t seen the movie and are wondering why I should focus my attention on a motion picture that grossed only $20,435 worldwide, check out my spoiler-free take on the movie, since I’m now about to spoil the hell out of this complex film in the next few paragraphs. Continue reading “The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) EXPLAINED.”

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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)”

The Classics of Horror #6 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This is a very sad week for the world of arts and entertainment.

Two highly inspiring figures have passed away: Chester Bennington, frontman of Linkin Park, committed suicide last night and George Romero, father of the zombie sub-genre in cinema, had died in last Sunday.

I can’t stress enough how much the sudden death of a singer who accompanied me with his melodies throughout my whole life shocked me. However, I’m not entitled to talk about it in this blog, although I wish I could express my grief in a better way.

Instead, I hope to make the brilliant director justice by reviewing, unbiasedly, the film that made him famous and gave us the basis for each single zombie movie that came out from 1968 to this day.

Night of the Living Dead is one of the first independent horror flicks, which grossed more than $30 million world-wide on a budget of only £114.000.

Last black and white entrance on this list, Night of the Living Dead tells the story of a small group of people gathered in an abandoned house trying to survive the return to life of the dead. This supernatural occurrence has been caused by radiation leaks that turn on the brains of corpses, basically resuscitating and turning them into flesh eaters.

Night of 2As this brief plot summary might suggest, the flick establishes the rules for each and every zombie movie (especially those involving slow ghouls): they feed upon human and animal flesh, they can’t be killed unless their head gets smashed, their bite is contagious and so on.

Romero has set the rules basing them on centuries of literature, dark fairy tales and bonfire stories, creating a fertile ground for one of the most successful sub-genres in cinema history.

With a small budget to his disposal, the director has also been able to confine the story within a narrow location – although news reports keep showing, throughout the movie, the consequences of the phenomenon on a larger scale, the focus of action is a small house with thin walls and, virtually, a few chances of survival.

Night of 1Even though today Night of the Living Dead wouldn’t scare a child, when I came out it’s been perceived as gory and unsettling. For example, the scene where the zombies eat the flesh of their victims must have been a massive shock for the 60s audience.

The film wasn’t ballsy only in terms of gore and violence, though. It’s then-daring employment of an African-American hero as the lead and its ubiquitous availability on television and video thanks to a lack of copyright all played roles in Night’s success. The racial component was, indeed, more shocking than the bloody sequences: “Everyone was sort of noticing the film was talking about the racial issue”, Romero said in a recent interview. “To us, it wasn’t a racial message at all”, he added, “in fact, when we cast Duane Jones (as the lead) – when Duane Jones agreed to do it – we didn’t change the script” to make it more suitable for a black character.

Night of 4.jpgNevertheless, the director himself claimed his flick to be more than just a zombie movie: “Our point was more the disintegration of society, the inability to communicate, the disintegration of the family unit. That’s the stuff that we were interested in”.

However, the social commentary doesn’t quite emerge in the film.

In my honest opinion, Night of the Living Dead is a rather weak film. Regardless its historic impact and influence, the movie lacks a sense of urgency and inevitability, which is what should emerge in a good zombie flick.

Furthermore, with the exception of Jones, every cast member gives an amateur performance, often over-the-top and laughable when it’s trying to be dramatic.

Night of 3Some of them are plainly annoying, for instance the girl who loses her brother in the first sequence involving the living dead. She’s so pathetic and nerve-wracking throughout the all movie and her contribution to the survival attempts is below nil.

Overall, the main issue with Night of the Living Dead is that it doesn’t hold up anymore.

It’s probably the least watchable out of Romero’s film and, also, in comparison to Rosemary’s Baby – which was released the same year – it looks extremely dated.

In all fairness, I wouldn’t suggest to watch Night of the Living Dead, unless you are a die-hard Romero’s fan or particularly interested in the zombie sub-genre. Instead, I recommend Dawn of the Dead (1978) and The Dark Half (1993) by George Romero, because in my opinion they are its best works. Cheers!

The Conjuring Universe and on the ‘universising’ phenomenon

James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013) has been highly appreciated by both critics and general audiences, something quite rare nowadays.

Followed by its likewise good sequel (2016), The Conjuring has set Wan among the best horror directors of all time – as if Saw (2004) wasn’t enough of a prove of the filmmaker’s talent.

The two films about Ed and Lorrain Warren (paranormal investigators active, for real, in the 50s and 60s in the US) have grossed an overall profit of 578.3 million of dollars (!), turning them into two of the most profitable movies in cinema history.

Conjuring universe 3It was inevitable that production companies would have started a race to earn the rights for sequels, spin-offs and so on. The Warner Bros. Pictures has, so, gave the authorisation for Annabelle (2014), its sequel Annabelle: Creation (August, 11th 2017), The Nun (2018), The Crooked Man (TBA) and The Conjuring 3 (TBA) to be produced and released.

Obviously, Annabelle, the movie, played a crucial role in this trend, since it grossed over $256 million against its $6.5 million production budget. Although, contrarily to The Conjuring films, nearly none who’s seen it thought it was a decent movie.

conjuring-cinematic-universePanned by critics and regular moviegoers, Annabelle is the archetype of production companies’ philosophy: they don’t care about providing people with quality cinema, they just crave for their money. Why would anyone appreciate the trite and tiresome attempt to a movie based on a coursed puppet and filled with horror clichés?

But, at the same time, why people went happily and jauntily to the cinemas just to be let down, big time? The answer is rather simple: audiences expected the same stuff they’ve been struck by in The Conjuring, even though Annabelle had a different director and, mostly, a pointless (if not entirely non-existent) plot, let alone a story-line.

Again, production companies don’t care what food they feed up audiences with. They just want to milk more money out of their pockets, with the minimum effort, when that’s possible.

The side effect of this trend – other than unsatisfying moviegoers and giving them loads of mediocre films – is even scarier. Indeed, for production companies is much easier and safer to connect poor quality products to better and more successful ones, linking them to the same world. In other words, it’s much less risky to fill up a pre-existent universe than trying un-walked (and, therefore, original) patterns.

Conjuring universe 1Hopefully I’m totally wrong and I’ll be retracting my statements by then, but I’ve got the strong belief that The Nun and The Crooked Man will be absolute flops. The latter, in particular, picks up the worst character of the entire Conjuring Universe, a monster created purely out of CGI that inspired more laughs than frights.

Similarly, The Conjuring 3 will likely retrace the footprints of its predecessors. Which means it’s very susceptible to be boring and uninteresting.

That of ‘universising’ or ‘universisation’, up to you (I don’t mean to show off by creating new words, so sorry in advance if I sound posh), is an ongoing threat for contemporary cinema, which just happened to affect the horror genre lately.

Indeed, this trend kicked off already with the Marvel and DC Universe (Avengers and siblings, Justice League and company) and Universal’s Dark Universe (Dracula Untold and The Mummy).

It’s successful because it’s economically rewarding. Nothing more, nothing less. For instance, Universal’s Dark Universe has been largely deemed as laughable, whereas the DC Universe has gathered mixed reactions.

Conjuring universe 4The Marvel Universe appears to be the only one unanimously perceived as good. However, if you stop for one second and think about it, all the Marvel films have the  same storytelling, execution and ending – with a few honourable exceptions (Deadpool, Guardian of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Soldier), this cinematic universe is, basically, a giant scheme that repeats itself over and over again. Movie after movie, seamlessly.

In regards to the horror genre, this trend tends to be more even more dangerous, since it affects a specific cinema branch, the quality of which is already put in peril by the endless series of soulless remakes and reboots.

Conjuring universe 5.gifThe implicit risk of creating a horror universe filled with unappealing and mediocre films is that quality flicks – which might benefit from smaller anticipations and, therefore, less advertising – will be liable to fly under the radars. This is already happening: great independent films such as The Eyes of my Mother and The Evil Within are being outrageously overlooked by mass audiences, who are just waiting for Annabelle: Creation and Insidious 4 to come out.

I want to make clear that I don’t blame James Wan, even in the slightest, for this disease (yes, that’s what I call it). If anything, Wan, with his immense talent has strengthened, throughout the years, the mainstream horror cinema thanks to his most famous motion pictures.

Unfortunately, though, his films have unintentionally pushed production companies to exploit said success in the easiest way possible, instead of taking them as an inspiration to revitalise on a large scale a genre that have seen a shortage of quality products in the 2000s – in addition, the few recent great horror movies often came from ‘abroad’ (i.e. not from the United States and Hollywood).

I know this post might seem a rent against mainstream production companies and, thus, mainstream horror cinema. Instead, I hope it may serve as food for thoughts for horror (and cinema) maniacs, like me, who want to sit through fulfilling experiences rather than disposable entertainment. 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!

Another urban legend turned into film. The Bye Bye Man – movie review

The Bye Bye Man is written by the long-time screenwriter for TV series Jonathan Penner and directed by his wife Stacy Title, who’s responsible for a bunch of masterpieces such as The Greatest Show Ever (2007), Hood of Horror (2006), Let the Devil Wear Black (1999) and The Last Supper.

Sorry, what? You guys have never heard of them? Well, I can honestly tell you you’re not missing out on these ones.

Unlike those movies, though, The Bye Bye Man has already grossed more than 24 million dollars worldwide on a small budget of slightly more than 7 million. The film tells the story of a bunch of college students who, after having rented a new house where partying and drinking alcohol, discover a caption on a drawer which frenetically repeats the sentence: “Don’t say it, don’t think it” in regards to the so-called Bye Bye Man. Consequently, shit hits the fence and everybody is basically screwed.

Honestly, this movie is a compilation of “WTF?! moments”, which made me wonder, at first, if The Bye Bye Man is a “so bad, that it’s good” kind of deal or if it’s simply awful. After pondering on it, I opted for the latter.

There is an overabundance of frustrating and nonsense stuff to consider this flick entertaining – and by that, I mean entertaining in a very specific and laughable way.

THE BYE BYE MANFor instance, the characters are so conventional and bland that I started to root for the villain half way through the movie. The acting is also ridiculously over-the-top and extremized; everybody is on the same high level, as they were on drugs when director and cameramen shot the scenes.

Yet, the story makes no sense whatsoever. Now, I understand that horror films often require suspension of disbelief from their audience, but they still should make sense within the story they aim to deliver. The script for The Bye Bye Man is senseless and contradicts itself continuously.

Therefore, the backstory and the ending are vastly disappointing and useless to answer the questions that the director tries to insert in the movie.

Bye Bye Man 2By far, the best part of the flick – actually, the only tolerable aspect of it all – it’s The Bye Bye Man himself, whose makeup and style are highly effective and threatening. Still, they manage to show him on screen only for a couple of brief moments where he always appears with a CGI demoniac dog who is as frightening as a pet made of balloons.

Bye Bye Man TrainHowever, if you still want to check out this movie be sure to pay careful attention to a couple of sequences specifically: the library one, the old-woman-catching-fire scene, the song-in-the-car moment, the winking sequence and the overabundance of train’s sounds for apparently no explicable reason. These scenes are absolutely hilarious, although in an awkward, accidental way.

Nevertheless, wasting your money and your time for a few moments in an otherwise crappy movie is not worth it. This thing is already grossing way more than it should. And if you really want to enjoy the WTF?! scenes, just look them up on YouTube, I’m sure somebody will upload them shortly. Cheers!

 

Pranks and revenge. Don’t hang up – review

Don’t hang up (2016/2017) is directed by Alexis Wajsbrot, at his debut, and features a group of teenage pranksters who mock people in vicious and controversial ways to obtain views on a YouTube-like website.

As their fame increases, so does the obsession developed towards them by a guy who decides to take his revenge in a very sadistic and violent way.

Although the concept can be considered quite silly, I found it to be interesting enough and also refreshing, even though similar stories have been depicted in previous movies such as Smile, #Horror and, most notably, Unfriended. In fact, I decided to check and review this flick – that came out in a limited release only few weeks ago – due to its intriguing premises.

Unfortunately, from the opening titles, the execution looks poorly realised, the main characters annoying and the score sounds off compared to the tone they were going for.

Indeed, the opening titles introduce the audience to eight pranksters running the channel, but throughout the runtime we get to know only four of them, two of which are the main characters.

untitled-1134In addition, the co-presence of two protagonists is an awkward choice, which can be made only if the characters are compelling and well-written, which they are not in Don’t hang up. Furthermore, the acting is so exaggerated and fake, the characters so annoying and hateful that results impossible to side by them.

3gwwg8gAt the same time, though, it’s hard to cheer for the villain, who is represented as a faceless voice that can’t be taken seriously by the audience, since he appears all-powerful and always one step ahead of the situation.

However, the movie is not pure rubbish. Wajsbrot, whose previous experiences were related to visual effects, tangibly puts a lot of effort in the camera work and cinematography, which look really well-crafted and carefully edited.

Sadly, the subtle atmosphere and the unsettling feeling provided by the visuals don’t match with the over-the-top, hysterical performances of the actors, especially Brady (Garrett Clayton), who is simply intolerable to the point that the audience wish he dies. Well, at least I did.

Moreover, the final sequence, beyond being extremely cliché, is very speedily and tiresomely executed and, I would say, disrespectful towards the audience, which is treated like a bunch of slow-minded people.

All in all, Don’t hang up is a low-budget disappointing flick, only saved by some random seeds of talent provided by the directorial efforts. Check it out only if you’re with friends or really bored. Cheers!