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 #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).

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.

Saviours of the genre? A reflection upon horror cinema and its current, brightest filmmakers

Whoever has the tiniest interest in cinema would have noticed that the 2010s have seen the release of many interesting horror films.

After the prolonged drought of good Hollywood horror flicks in the early 2000s, many have finally grasped the endless opportunities offered by this chameleonic and polyhedral genre.

The search of innovation within horror cinema is, finally, experiencing a peak that, in my opinion, hasn’t been on the horizon (to the current extent) since the 80s. Eventually, production companies on one side, and audiences on the other are giving dignity to a genre which has been reduced to mindless entertainment for teenagers for a far too long time.

Sure, part of this ‘horror renaissance’ derives from the overall good quality of formulaic and conventional films and, as a result, we are witnessing a true outbreak of cinematic universes expansion. From a non-posh perspective, though, this is a quite positive feature: on one hand, films such as Insidious (2010) and The Conjuring (2013) shaped mainstream tastes for the better; on the other, they tangentially made room for unconventional and brave indie horror that might become the classics of tomorrow.

Therefore, for this blog post I decided to focus on those promising filmmaker who, working mostly on horror flicks, are redefining the genre and providing us with worthy cinematic experiences. Since I dedicated to him an entire series of posts, you won’t find James Wan in the list, although his name was worth mentioning.

If you have any disagreement or think any other director should be on this list, please let me know in the comments section below. And do not get mad at me if your favourite newcomer filmmaker doesn’t appear on this post! Cheers!

Horror directors 1David F. Sandberg (Sweden, 21 January 1981) – the Swedish James Wan’s doppelganger has debuted with two box-office blasts: Lights Out (2016) and Annabelle: Creation (2017). These movies feature conventional plot and jump-scares, which, however, are executed in a mature and wise way. Characterised by beautiful cinematography and compelling protagonists, Sandberg’s flicks please mainstream audiences to a level only Wan has been able to reach. Although I’m not a big fun of his work, its impact on the genre is undeniable and Sandberg is giving viewers something they weren’t used to anymore: pure good quality entertainment.

Horror directors 2Sean Byrne (Australia, [sorry, his bio is untraceable]) – after his acclaimed debut (The Loved Ones, 2009), Sean Byrne’s Devil’s Candy (2017) sets itself as one of the surprises of 2017. This heavy-metal horror flick has confirmed the director’s talent and given us hope for his next steps in the horror industry. Featuring unusual storytelling and surreal imagery, Byrne’s films simultaneously shy away from being overly artsy or pretentious. Let’s see what other treat he’ll provide us with!

Evil Dead - 2013Fede Alvarez (Uruguay, 9 February 1978) – with the blessing of no one less than Sam Raimi, the Uruguayan director made his feature-length debut with the surprisingly good Evil Dead (2013), a reboot/reimagination of the classic The Evil Dead (1981). Three years later, Alvarez strengthened the respect he earned thanks to the horror/thriller Don’t Breathe (2016). The guy has proved to be highly chameleonic, being able to create two extremely intriguing films which rely on very different themes (gore for the first, suspense for the latter), while conveying emotions through well-written characters and utilising unconventional camera-work. Muy bueno!

horror directors 4Jordan Peele (USA, 21 February 1979) – I know, I know. The comedian/telly producer/actor has just made his directorial debut and, so far, he’s made only one movie. Still, this little movie is the most appreciated horror flick on RottenTomatoes since… well, ever! Get Out (2017) represents a nice, innovative take on the genre. Peele’s film is something rarely seen before: a combination between comedy (a lot), horror and social commentary. All of that is accompanied by great cinematography, astounding camera-work and excellent acting. If Peele decides to keep on making horrors, mainstream audiences are in good hands.

Horror directors 5.jpgAdam Wingard (USA, 3 December 1982) – with You’re Next (2011) and V/H/S 1 and 2 (2012-2013) he earned praises, whereas Blair Witch (2016) and Death Note brought him down to earth. Regardless, Adam Wingard is a make-or-break deal that’s giving small twists to the genre. Very eclectic and innovative, his direction ranges from one sub-genre to the other: from the slasher to the anthology to the horror/thriller to the paranormal. Especially the first two I just mentioned benefitted a lot from Wingard’s talent, who’s adding unpredictability to these sub-genres. Unfortunately, he seems to having abandoned the horror route in favour of summer blockbusters (he’s set to direct the upcoming Godzilla vs Kong film). Come on Adam, go back to your horror passion: money doesn’t buy happiness! Well, it does… I think.

Darren Aronofsky (USA, 12 February 1969) – here I’m cheating a bit, since Aronofsky didn’t direct only horror flicks. However, his inclusion on this list is due to my unconditional love for the guy as a filmmaker and, more importantly, all the horror/disturbing elements included in his films. If we all close our eyes and pretend Noah (2014) never happened, we’ll realise that Aronofsky can’t make anything bad. Whatever he puts his hands on, turns into cinematic gold.

horror directors 6.pngRequiem for a Dream (2000), a surreal and disturbing journey within drugs and compelling addicts, and Black Swan (2010), an outstanding psychological horror about the ballet world, give me hope for Aronofsky’s upcoming Mother! This is, most likely, a horror drama on the trail of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – it could even be a reimagination of Polanski’s masterpiece – which has the potential to be excellent. In general, Aronofsky always delivers uneasiness through its movies, being able to add a surreal touch to them while, simultaneously, avoiding the artsy-fartsy, pretentious route. I might be wrong (or you might disagree with me), but I consider Aronofsky’s work a constant journey in the real-life horror, that one connected to our fear of drugs or unhealthy obsessions. Which means that if you’re a mama boy (like myself… ops!), Mother! would likely change your perspective!

Mike Flanagan (USA, 20 May 1978) – from a guy born in the wicked town of Salem, Massachusetts, becoming a horror director seem a natural route. All jokes apart, Flanagan is a sort of miracle man: after his 2011 debut (Absentia) received a quite cold welcome, Oculus (2013) knocked it out of the park, but was clouded by some foreign horror masterpieces that came out the same year nonetheless.

horror directors 7Both his first feature-length films revolve around the supernatural element. However, Flanagan utilises demons and ghosts to tell human stories and dig into his characters’ feelings and emotions. Yet, he plays with the audience’s expectations by creating the set-up for jump-scares and then avoiding them, whilst making us frightened in much subtler ways.

Nevertheless, I named him ‘miracle man’ since he’s been able to direct a script based on a board game and turning it into something highly watchable: Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) is a fairly enjoyable horror movie, much deeper than the story itself deserves. Also, in comparison to its predecessor Ouija (2014) – a shameless cash-grabbing train-wreck – Flanagan’s sequel looks like a masterpiece. Clever and competent, Flanagan will likely deliver other great films to both mainstream and underground audiences in the future. I challenge you Mike, your next film should be a found-footage about alien abduction: let’s see if you can turn that into a quality product!

horror directors 8Nicolas Pesce (USA, 18 January 1990) – the golden kid has nailed it with his first and – so far – only feature-length film: The Eyes of my Mother (2017) is perhaps no masterpiece, but will certainly develop a cult following. This black-and-white artsy horror/drama is almost flawless and the young director behind it handled story, cinematography and characters in such a unique, mesmerising way. Hired to direct the next Grudge film, I can only hope the production company behind the project will give Pesce as much freedom as possible, so that the guy could make his unconventional touch emerge in a Hollywood film. Make it black-and-white, Nick!

The Spierig Brothers (Australia, 29 April 1976) – did I save the best for last? I don’t know, it’s up to you to decide. In my opinion, the Aussie twins are among the best horror filmmakers working today. Their debut was the extremely underrated Undead (2003), a low-budget alien-zombie horror comedy – yes, I’m serious – which provided quite some gore, laughter and great entertainment.

However, it’s with Daybreakers (2009) that I fell in love with Peter and Michael Spierig: I talked about that film in my underrated movies series, so I won’t come back to it again, for the moment. Let me just say that their attempt to a non-horror flick (Predestination, 2014) is probably the best sci-fi film of the 2000s, at least in my opinion.

horror directors 9.jpgThe Aussie directors will make their Hollywood debut with Jigsaw (27 October 2017), the eight chapter of the Saw franchise which will have the hard task of reinvigorating a storyline that has been messed up throughout the years to the point of becoming tiresome and barely watchable. Also, in 2018 they will release Winchester, a supernatural horror drama that sounds really promising.

All in all, the Spierig Brothers are excellent at crossing genres and unconventional plots, which is what I really like about them. If with Jigsaw I’m a bit sceptical (for the first time in their career they didn’t write the script), Winchester is already one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. I honestly don’t think they will ever make any bull dust!

I know this post is already long enough, I apologise for that, I just want to add that the topic of this list is, obviously, the directors. In the 2000s there have been single movies worth watching and praising; nevertheless, these films came, mostly, from out of Hollywood: UK, France, Japan, Australia and Korea gave us many amazing flicks. However, here I decided to focus on those directors who might change the Hollywoodian attitude towards horror cinema, making mainstream films you can actually care for, instead of just wasting your money with. I hope you’ll like it, cheers!

Classics of Horror #7 – The Last House on the Left (1972)

The Last House on the Left is the first, and probably most, controversial entry on this list.

This film – directed by a then-young guy who went on making flicks sank by obscurity (sarcasm alert) such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), The Serpent and The Rainbow (1988), The People Under the Stairs (1991) and the four Scream (1996-2011) movies – is an exploitation horror that received humongous criticism when it came out and have been rehabilitated only in recent times.

Last House on the left 1Written, directed and edited by a young Wes Craven – one of, if not the best horror filmmaker of all time – The Last House on the Left tells the story of two naïve teenage girls who, in search of drugs, end up kidnapped by a band of maniacs who just escaped from prison.

It’s a 40-something year old movie, so I imagine nobody will complain if I insert some spoiler every here and there. I need to, in order to explain where the controversy lies.

Once kidnapped and taken into the woods, the two girls get raped, tortured and, eventually, killed.

As a consequence of its themes, the film was censored in many countries, and was particularly controversial in the United Kingdom, where The Last House was refused a certificate for cinema release by the British Board of Film Censors in 1974 due to scenes of sadism and violence.

I wonder what would have happened if A Serbian Film came out back then…

Anyway, Craven’s debut motion picture was inserted among the ‘video nasty’ list in 1984. In summary, ‘video nasty’ is the colloquial definition ascribed to a list of films that were criticised for their violent content by the press, social commentators and various religious organisations.

Last House on the left 3Due to the consequent implementation of the Video Recording Act, a stricter code of censorship has been imposed on videos than was required for cinema release. Several major studio productions were banned on video, as they fell within the scope of legislation designed to control the distribution of video nasty.

Despite many reviewers (among which Roger Ebert and Mark Kermode stood out) praised The Last House and used it as a symbol against the censorship of ideas and free art, the film had been presented to the BBFC (British Board of Film Censors) for theatrical certification throughout the years and it’d constantly been refused. Until 2008 when, upon numerous investigations by the BBFC itself, it was classified uncut for video release.

At this point, you might wonder if the movie is worth its reputation.

To begin with, the violence is quite in your face, although some weird editing choices and poor practical effects (Craven had only some $87.000 budget available) make it looks dated and less effective.

However, The Last House came out in 1972, a time when audiences’ maximum level of gore was represented by the slow-ass zombies of Night of the Living Dead (1968) and the hints to violence in Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

Due to its themes and implications, the film had an impact on me in terms of uneasiness (I must admit I consider rape as the worst crime, sin and cruelty a person could ever commit, alongside with paedophilia). So, I can just imagine how people perceived it back in the 70s.

Besides the controversy, Craven’s debut feature is an iconic rape-and-revenge exploitation that inspired an entire sub-genre with an endless list of titles and made room for a horror field that has little to do with the paranormal or supernatural.

Its grounded and down-to-hearth nature is what I appreciate the most about this film.

On the contrary, an aspect I didn’t like about it is the comic relief. In all fairness, to my knowledge, The Last House was one of the first horror flicks to introduce comedic features, a revolution that still influences horror cinema nowadays.

Unfortunately, in Craven’s film the comic relief – provided by two clumsy policemen – falls short and distracts the viewer from an otherwise dark and depressing story.

The sound design fails as well in creating a suspenseful atmosphere, being filled with tracks more suitable for a hash house than a dramatic situation as the one our teenagers are experiencing.

Last House on the left 2In terms of characters, the criminals are depicted very well and their traits emerge through dialogues and actions more than exposition. The girls and the other protagonists, instead, are flat and victims of the events, therefore not very interesting.

All in all, The Last House of the Left is worth a watch, especially if you are looking for some 80 minutes of ‘twisted’ entertainment. Craven’s debut will not be the only director’s entrance on this list and, perhaps, the next ones will justify his title of Master of Horror. Cheers!

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 Classics of Horror #3 – Creature of the Black Lagoon

Creature of the Black Lagoon (1954) was released in a quirky period of time for the history of cinema.

In 1953, a few production companies attempted the 3D technology for the first time. Jack Arnold, director of many Sci-Fi movies in the 50s, decided to tag along and follow the trend.

Unfortunately, the 3D wasn’t quite appealing for the audience at the time, mostly because the filmmakers couldn’t get its and make the best of its potential. Creature of the Black Lagoon was part of this faulty experiment.

However, the film itself had much more to offer than a pure 3D gaming. As a consequence, Jack Arnold’s movie became one of the most influential motion pictures in the history of both Sci-Fi and Horror.

Creature of the Black Lagoon is clearly the product of an age of transition, where horror cinema opened the door to modern standards whilst still relying on elder modules in terms of acting and character development.

Following a quite simple storyline – scientists discover an unknown fossil in the Amazon rainforest, team up to find out more and come across an amphibious monster who won’t let them go away easily – the film develops a dreadful atmosphere which is constant throughout the 89 minutes of runtime.

The choice of not showing the monster in its entirety until half way through the film makes him scarier – probably terrifying at the time the movie was shot – than it should have if its design was unveiled straight away.

The main location – a fisherman boat sailing through the Amazon River – is also effective, since it confines our characters within a secluded place that’s not easy – or safe – to abandon.

creaturefromtheblacklagoonWhat I honestly found astounding, though, was the design and the practical effects the creature was made with. Surprisingly, they hold up and age very well: the creature of the Black Lagoon – which is a guy wearing well-made mask and costume – is more unsettling than many CGI monsters we are used to see on screen nowadays.

Yet, the underwater cinematography is worth praising. Made with a ground-breaking technology for the time, the camera work is convincing and spotless even for a contemporary eye. The waving and swinging of the pond weed gave an extra layer of realism to the whole underwater photography.

Nevertheless, although more enjoyable for modern audiences than Nosferatu or Frankenstein, Creature of the Black Lagoon is not flawless.

Firstly, neither the screenwriter nor the director bothered to check the differences between Spanish and Portuguese. For instance, at the very beginning of the film, there is a sign which tells us we are in front of the Instituto de Biologia Marina of Sao Paolo. However, in Portuguese it should have been spelled as Instituto de Biologia Marinha. It’s nit-picking, I know, but these lazy mistakes always annoy me for some odd reason.

creature-from-the-black-lagoon-sliceThe other thing that turned me off quite a bit was the role of the only female character in the film. I get that Julia Adams is in the movie purely because she’s good-looking, but why her only lines consist of her whining about her fiancé diving into the water and annoyingly screaming as soon as she sees the monster? Her presence in the movie was completely unnecessary and useless.

Even though, in all honesty, I guess that was the typical female role in the 50s’ cinema, where women couldn’t look after themselves nor make their own decisions – alike the patriarchal American society of the time wanted the viewers to perceive them.

All in all, though, Creature of the Black Lagoon is worth watching both for its influence in the creature-feature sub-genre and the level of entertainment it provides the viewers with. Cheers!

The Classics of Horror #2 – Frankenstein (1932)

Alongside Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931), James Whale’s Frankenstein is one of the milestones of the pre-Code, a brief era between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines.

Successful and quite faithful to the original novel, Frankenstein had a generally positive reception and, to these days, is considered among the best horror movies in cinema history.

Nevertheless, the film encountered many troubles straight after its release. The scene in which the monster throws the little girl into the lake and accidentally drowns her has long been controversial. Upon its original 1931 release, the second part of this scene was cut by state censorship boards in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York.

frankenstein-theredlist.jpgThose states also objected to a line they considered blasphemous, one that occurred during Frankenstein’s exuberance when he first learns that his creature is alive. The original line – “It’s alive! It’s alive! In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!” – has been changed in many ways by censors.

Regardless, Frankenstein presents timeless themes and food for thought that survived censorships and controversy.

Alike Nosferatu (1922), the creature represents what’s different from the society and its values. It’s scary because unknown and incomprehensible.

Yet, the relationship between science and religion is a key elements, as well as the conflict between the inevitable death and the urge for immortality.

Filled with great performances – according to the standards of that time – Frankenstein still manages to be unsettling at points, more so for the angry outburst of the commoners than for the creature itself, which is presented as both culprit and victim.

frankenstein1931eSimilarly, Henry Frankenstein (perfectly portrayed by Colin Clive) shows a contrasting nature, in precarious balance between haughtiness and scientific curiosity.

Overall, still to these days Frankenstein is a modern movie – in regards to its contents – and probably the best adaptation of the novel of the same name. Obviously, there are editing and sound design issues that most of contemporary movies don’t deal with.

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Nevertheless, this is a monster movie that has more to offer than what some could think. Give it a watch, it’s definitely worth your time and attention. 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!

Forget about Freddy and Jason, a new slasher will haunt your nights. Lake Alice – movie review

Yes, it will. Lake Alice – a crowdfunded slasher flick directed by Ben Milliken – won’t let you catch sleep anymore.

Why? No, not because it’s scary or unsettling or disturbing. Instead, Lake Alice will keep you wide awake wondering how on earth it got made.

lake alice pic1Recently released straight on Amazon and Netflix, this ‘thing’ tells the story of a Californian family – mom, dad, young daughter and her boyfriend/fiancé – that ends up having Christmas holidays in the mountains being hunted down by two masked killers. As if it really matters…

In fact, the film is so horrendous that doesn’t even deserve a regular review, instead I tried to imagine the making-process behind Lake Alice by creating a hypothetic conversation between the director and the screenwriter (Stevie Jane Miller).

Milliken: Stevie, this material looks awesome! I can’t wait to start filming the movie!

Miller: I know, I put a lot of effort in it. It took me an overall of four hours to write the script… although I played Clash of Clans while writing it.

Milliken: Oh, that’s why there are so few scenes to film. I could fill the gaps and make for a feature-length movie?

Miller: Mmmm… that’s why I wrote 10 out of 12 pages on character development, where nothing else happens of any interest.

Milliken: If you want to call it ‘character development’… it’s just a series of random encounters between the main characters and other people living in the town. Which, by the way, don’t carry the plot along whatsoever.

Miller: Whatever. At least we can use those moments as fillers.

Milliken: Not really. Even when the action kicks off, I haven’t got enough material to work with.

Miller: Oh, well, then just take some amazing landscape shots.

Milliken: I don’t know how to do it.

Miller: What? Are you not supposed to be a director?

Milliken: Well, I filmed a wedding once, so I figured I would be able to film a horror movie.

Miller: Sounds like quite a good CV to me. Okay, what do we do then?

Milliken: I’ll just take absurdly elongated shots of car lights, basements, curtains and woods. To be fair, my strength is the action scenes!

Miller: Alright! How are you going to film them?

Milliken: Okay, listen. I am going to film the killer from behind his victims while he stabs them slowly and with no sense of urgency.

Miller: Sounds good. I don’t know how to write about brutal killings, so I might just as well let you do your stuff.

lake-alice-2017Milliken: I know what I am doing. Also, get ready for this, the killers will be revealed to be the guy who was in love with the main girl, backed up by his insane mother!

Miller: It seems like a predictable plot twist to me, though.

Milliken: No no no! Because I will fake the guy’s death and, only at the end, I will reveal that he wasn’t a victim but one of the fillers all along!

Miller: That’s pure genius!

Milliken: Wait, wait! The last shot, after the serial killers will be murdered by the main girl’s mother out of the blue and with no rational explanation whatsoever, will show another serial killer hiding in the bushes… to hint for a sequel!

Miller: God Ben! This will make us rich and famous! Let’s give a look to the final product before telling the production company we are ready to release the movie.

1 HOUR AND 12 MINUTES LATER

Miller: Sorry Ben, I fell asleep. How was the film?

Milliken: Crap, Stevie! I’ve done the same! Well, it must have been good, let’s release it!

 

Needless to say, Lake Alice turned out to be a train wreck, one of the worst slasher ever made. Do not watch it guys. Cheers!