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”

Murphy and Peters survived the messy amalgamation of cults. AHS: Cult – TV series review

Undergone intense rewrites, the seventh season of American Horror Story has, finally, embraced the US presidential election as main plotline.

Cult, the very much explanatory title given to the season, is really an amalgamation of themes and storylines.

Mostly, we follow Kai (Evan Peters), a deranged dude who sees the victory of Trump as an opportunity for underdogs to rise to the power in the United States. The fictional city of Brookfield Heights, Michigan is indeed left divided by the election outcome and Kai is using people fears and uncertainty to achieve his sick goals.

AHS Cult 1.gifIn fact, Peters’ character orchestrates acts of terrorism, fake assaults and, especially, a gang of killer clowns (not from outer space, this time around) to weaken the sense of security of Brookfield Heights. Long story short, Kai Anderson wants to become a dictator and manipulates people’s feelings to achieve that.

Continue reading “Murphy and Peters survived the messy amalgamation of cults. AHS: Cult – TV series review”

One giant built-up to a clever twist. Lake Bo(re)dom – movie review

It’s not a very smart pun, I know. Obviously, the real title of this Finnish horror thriller is Lake Bodom, a movie that came out in 2016 but had its wide release in 2017.

Regarded as one of the smartest horror films in recent years, Lake Bodom utilises an actual crime case that happened in the location of the same name in 1960, when two youngsters got stabbed to death. Following the investigation, a third 18-year-old boy who was in the tent with the victims was found innocent for lack of evidence.

In consequence, the movie revolves around four high-schoolers (two boys and two girls) who go camping in the same location some 40 years after the murders to find out if the Lake Bodom killer is just a legend or something more real. Continue reading “One giant built-up to a clever twist. Lake Bo(re)dom – movie review”

I JUST SAW… Baskin (Turkey, 2015)

Here we are, starting a new series in which I’ll be taking a look at some random movies that went overlooked or are just plain unknown.

Most of the movies I’ll be watching and talking about are foreign (as in non-American), therefore I hope you don’t mind reading subtitles! Obviously, these are all going to be films that I highly recommend, so check them out if you’re intrigued by what you are going to read. Starting off with…

Baskin 1Baskin (Turkey, 2015, directed by Can Evrenol) revolves around five Turkish police officers who receive an emergency call from a secluded location and go check out what the fuss is all about. On their way, they get into a terrible car accident which, anyway, happens not too far from the mansion they were headed to. When they enter the unsettling mansion, all hell breaks loose (literally).

Continue reading “I JUST SAW… Baskin (Turkey, 2015)”

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)”

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!

Baby Blues (2008) – movie review

I owe this one to my friend Jimmy Ray Davis, who solved a puzzle and got himself a review of his choice as a reward.

As a matter of fact, I’m also quite happy about his pick, since it gave me the opportunity to watch and talk about a movie I haven’t seen or heard of before.

Baby Blues 1Co-directed by Lars Jacobson and famous Indian filmmaker Amardeep Kaleka, Baby Blues (2008) tells the story of a countryside family – mom, dad and four kids – who live in a secluded farm. Upon suffering from post-partum depression (the so-called baby blues syndrome), the mother loses it and starts to show a violent behaviour towards her children.

Loosely inspired by true events – check out the series of articles on the Andrea Yates’ case – this indie horror seems to me more like a general exploration of mental breakdown and psychosis. For instance, to support my thesis, the characters of the parents don’t have first names: they’re simply regarded as ‘mom’ and ‘dad’.

In this respect, I can’t help but appreciate the directors’ effort put into the movie: they, passionately, created a horror flick that has a message.

Baby Blues 3Is the execution good, though? I’d say that, for the most part, it’s above average, especially for a low-budget, indie horror flick. I wouldn’t call it a scary movie, per se, but it features an unsettling and creepy vibe throughout nonetheless. Some scenes are very effective, since they hint to extreme violence without becoming overly graphic.

Baby Blues 2The acting is great for this type of movies. Ridge Canipe, who plays the older soon, the ‘hero’ of the movie, is fantastic. Colleen Porch, who portrays the mom, is compelling and quite unsettling from beginning to end. I don’t want to be considered sexist, but she was also kind of hot in Baby Blues: I dug that!

Personally, I just wish she had a better development as a character, since she looks pretty messed up since the very beginning. This film is 77 minutes long, therefore it could have used ten minutes more of build-up during the first third of the movie.

From a technical standpoint, I liked the colour design, with its documentary-ish vibe, and the great choice of locations. However, I strongly disliked the editing, especially within the first half of Baby Blues. The overabundance of cuts and takes gave me a nauseating feeling, which is really a shame.

Another issue I have with the film revolves around the father character: I feel like the directors didn’t know what to do with him in certain bits and, therefore, he pops up on screen every now and then, distracting the viewer from the main focus of the story.

Besides that, Baby Blues is a quite solid indie flick, based on an intriguing concept and filled with enough memorable and disturbing scenes. I don’t know whether it’s a rewatchable movie or not, but I would still recommend checking it out. And, Jimmy, since this review is for you, I’m going to give the movie a grade:

3/5

Manual of good parenting when Satan is your stepson. Little Evil – movie review

Being a stepdad shouldn’t be easy to begin with. However, when your wife’s son speaks demonic voices and burns people alive with his sight, you might be dealing with something riskier than the usual family issues.

Little Evil 1.jpgSimply put, this is the plot of Little Evil, a Netflix horror-comedy starring Adam Scott as Lucas’ stepdad and new Evangeline Lilly’s husband. The relationship between Samantha (Lilly) and Gary (Scott) seems all good and well, until Lucas reveals himself as… well, the reincarnation on the Antichrist!

From that point – which occurs in the first scenes of the film – onwards, Little Evil displays an endless stream of hilarious scenes that spoof many horror clichés.

Little Evil 2.jpgSpecifically, this film could be seen as a parody of Omen (1976) but, simultaneously, puts into play references to other horror classics, such as The Shining (1980), Poltergeist (1982), Children of the Corn (1984), Evil Dead (2013) and many others.

Nevertheless, this movie never tries to be a Scary Movie type-of-deal; instead, it emulates the style and tone of Scream (1996) and The Cornetto Trilogy. In regards to the latter, my girlfriend made me notice how the fast-paced editing choices and cinematography take strong inspiration from Edgar Wright.

In terms of direction, in fact, Eli Craig (Tucker and Dale vs Evil, 2010) proves again to be a perfectionist by not making a single lazy shot. Personally, I perceived this style of cinematography quite invasive in certain scenes, but I can’t deny its masterful execution and impact on the film itself.

In regards to story and execution, Little Evil relies much more on the comedic aspect rather than on the horror one. In summary, it’s just a highly entertaining film that cleverly dissect the horror genre and its stereotypes: from jump-scares to dream-sequences to research scenes to characters’ decision.

Little evil 3.jpgYet, when it comes to the characters this movie does a brilliant job. After Krampus (2015), Adam Scott pulls off another great performance as a star of a horror comedy, this time backed up by Evangeline Lilly, whose ingenuity and naivety are perfect for what the director was going for.

Yet, the relationship between stepfather and stepson in this movie is explored beyond the comedic territory and (again, according to my girlfriend) the message delivered by the movie in this regard is powerful and subtle. I didn’t get any of that, to be fair, but it’s probably just me being a bit dumb. Sorry!

Running for 89 minutes, Little Evil flows perfectly, without any dull or dragging moment. Every scene is seamlessly connected to the next one and Craig should really be praised for that. After Tucker and Dale vs Evil and, now, this film, I’m really curious to see what Craig will do next.

According to RottenTomatoes, Little Evil is a perfect movie, gathering a 100% of consent so far. Being nit-picky, I personally found a couple of things that keep me away from loving this film.

Little evil 4.jpgFirst, one specific character: Al, played by Bridget Everett. She’s supposed to be the embodiment of raunchy comedy within the story. However, having a comic relief within a comedy can be tiresome sometimes and Al got to my nerves pretty soon in the movie. Yet, I like the otherwise subtle dark humour in the film, thus I found her character quite annoying.

Furthermore, I believe some scenes should have worked better as dark and gory instead of light-hearted and cheerful, since they would have made for a nice contrast of tones the movie could have benefitted from.

Apart from those small complaints, I strongly recommend Little Evil especially for two kinds of viewer: suckers for 80s horror flicks and people who look for a fun, dark comedy based on horror clichés. Even if you don’t belong to the mentioned categories, though, this film deserves a watch. Cheers!

When a bank robbery with James Franco goes wrong. The Vault – movie review

The Vault is a horror/thriller which revolves around a great and compelling mystery: trying to figure out what the hell James Franco is doing in this movie!

With Stephen King’s IT (review coming – very – soon) hitting theatres and making audiences go crazy, every other horror movie out there is being overlooked and, most probably, will flow under the radars.

Vault 1One of them is The Vault, written and directed by Dan Bush (The Signal, 2007), and starring James Franco and Clifton Collins Jr (Pacific Rim, Westworld, Star Trek). The focus of this horror disguised as a thriller, though, revolves around two estranged sisters – Vee and Leah Dillon, played by Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood – that decide to rob a bank in order to help their brother leaving prison.

After finding only £70.000 in the bank safe, the two ‘bad girls’ and their team of outcasts ask a bank employee to give them a way out with more money: Ed Maas (Franco) points them an old vault where they could find all the cash they need. Unfortunately, in the titular vault money is not the only thing the unlucky robbers will find…

Kicking off with a pretty cool opening scene, The Vault seems a straight-up thriller for the first 45 minutes or so, then it turns into a supernatural-driven horror flick. However, the main issues with the film is the very directorial inability to match the two tones. This movie doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be or what direction to go for, resulting in a quite disjointed and convoluted plot.

Besides, between thriller and horror scenes there are dull-witted dialogues that neither develop the characters, nor give viewers something to think about. In other words, they are fillers to make the flick reach the feature length.

Vault 2.jpgYet, the character themselves are mostly annoying and unlikable: only Leah (Eastwood) is worth rooting for, whereas her sister Vee (Manning) is, frankly, unbearable because she screams throughout the entire runtime and looks like she’s on cocaine for the majority of the film.

Also, since there is an overabundance of characters, Franco and Collins Jr are vastly underutilised and can’t shine in a movie which, honestly speaking, would very much need their on-screen charisma.

Again, the ending – and by that, I mean the very last shot – makes no sense whatsoever and seems the usual, lazy way to conclude a horror movie with a final jump-scare when the director or screenwriter run out of ideas.

Nevertheless, The Vault is not entirely worthless. For instance, towards the end and before the silly final sequence, there is a rather clever plot twist which, also, makes sense within the film and gives the audience certain answers they might have asked themselves during the film.

Other than one CGI made shot, everything else has been made through practical – and quite convincing – practical effects. There is some well-made gore thrown in the mix which is entertaining – although most of the time it’s hard to look at because of the damn shaky-cam.

Overall, I’d say The Vault would work better as a straight-up thriller rather than a mixed-genre that combines a crime story with supernatural horror. The good production values and intriguing premise, though, are not enough for me to recommend the film.

Vault featureUnless you are down for a moustached, grumpy James Franco! If that’s the case, go watch The Vault now, otherwise just avoid it. Cheers!