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”

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Bunnyman: Vengeance, The Limehouse Golem and Resurrection – movie reviews in short

The end is coming! No, don’t worry, I’m only talking about the end of 2017, which is quickly approaching and… there are still so many horror flicks to check out and review!

Therefore, I decided to give you my brief take on three films that were recently released and might seem appealing to you. Bear in mind, these titles are all non-American (but only for Resurrection you will need to read subtitles), which is what has driven me to watch them in the first place. Continue reading “Bunnyman: Vengeance, The Limehouse Golem and Resurrection – movie reviews in short”

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 #14 – The Thing (1982)

The creature-feature obsession that had ruled the black and white sci-fi horror cinema, stopped almost entirely in the 50s, with audiences overwhelmed by crappy B-movies and tired of being thrown the same story inhabited by paper-thin characters.

A man alone, with a single film, changed everything at the beginning of the 80s. John Carpenter’s The Thing popped out of the blue in the pinnacle of the slasher era, ruled by Michael Myers (created by Carpenter himself) and Jason Voorhees, and blew everyone away.

A straight-up, nostalgic sci-fi film about a shapeshifting alien being hunting down a handful of scientists in Antarctica exploded at the box offices all around the world and broadened the horror genre boundaries.

The Thing 1What many people aren’t aware of is that The Thing isn’t just a 50s sci-fi exploitation; instead, it’s based on John W. Campbell Jr’s novella Who Goes There? (1938) which was more loosely adapted by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby as the 1951 film The Thing from Another World.

Therefore, Carpenter’s masterpiece is probably the best remake ever made in horror cinema, besides being one of the most compelling and entertaining creature-feature movies ever made.

Needless to say, I love this amazing motion picture.

Firstly, the practical effects are top-notch. This movie came out in 1982 and, if it wasn’t for the characters’ outfit and a few “dated” editing choices, you wouldn’t notice it was made some 35 years ago! Every shot involving “the thing” is a feast for the eye: the practical effects are so brilliantly crafted that look more realistic than 99% of anything else I’ve seen in every other movie. Furthermore, the brilliant editing and colour scheme help to keep the fiction believable, making every action sequence flow seamlessly. Even the peaceful moments look compelling and entertaining, thanks to the gorgeous locations and smart utilisation of lighting.

Secondly, the music is a pure delight for the viewer’s ears. Ennio Morricone, the great composer finally awarded by the academy for Django soundtrack, delivers a constant sense of tension and impending doom that heightens the crucial moments and strengthens the calmer ones.

Finally, the story is compelling and its execution spotless. Contrarily to most of the older or newer creature-feature flicks (for example, The Void), The Thing benefits from a strong narrative and a plot that constantly makes sense. The scientific aspect of the story is therefore intriguing and believable, making for an experience that works as both pure sci-fi and straight-up horror.

The Thing 3If no movie is perfect, The Thing is one of those few exceptions that get ridiculously close to perfection. Reflecting upon the film, for a while I thought the overabundance of characters gave them less reliability and, therefore, the audience couldn’t really care for their faith. However, I recently came to the conclusion that this is a fundamental trait of the movie: a key feature of “the thing” is that it can take the appearance of anybody, which generates doubt and suspicion among the scientists within the facility. Thus, having many characters into play increases the feeling of uncertainty in the audience, as well as the sense of dread among the characters.

Besides, the acting is astounding and make the protagonists compelling even though they don’t have backstories or unique characteristics.

Overall, I think it’s a shame that The Thing doesn’t benefit from the same reputation as other genre-defining films, such as Psycho or The Exorcist. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour and give it a chance right away, because Carpenter’s masterpiece must be part of your horror knowledge!

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 latest 80’s creature-feature exploitation is… a bloody mess! The Void – movie review

The Void is a Canadian low-budget horror movie directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie. Kostantski has lately made a name for himself due to Astron-6, a small company known for producing 80’s-centric, independent movies that often combine horror with comedy and feature monsters and supernatural creatures.

The Void instead, is a departure from the usual comedic tone, being a straight-up horror film where gore and blood are utilised to scare more than for pure entertainment’s sake.

void_4guide__large-e1474646262477.jpgThe plot revolves around a police officer who, backed up by a group of random people, has been trapped in a hospital by a gathering of hooded cultists after rescuing a severely wounded dude who survived a bloody massacre. The group soon discovers that the hospital has been inhabited by grotesque creatures, which the mysterious cult has something to do with.

I had to re-watch it twice in order to write this review, the reason being the fact that The Void has received a quite good critics consensus, despite making me rather disappointed and indifferent. After a second view, I stick to my opinion, here’s why.

Although the movie presents itself as nothing more than an 80’s practical monster movie exploitation, it reminds me of a rip off from Event Horizon (1997) and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Unfortunately, The Void hasn’t got the same claustrophobic atmosphere of the Paul W. S. Anderson’s movie nor the impact or the amazements of Carpenter’s masterpiece.

Even though I can’t help but respect the effort put into the practical effects of this flick, the use of colours, lighting and camera work make them displeasing, not to say frustrating. Indeed, the stroboscopic lights and the shaky-cam make for a nauseous experience, where the viewers can’t enjoy the scenes as they should. After all, gore and violent killings are what this movie is all about.

images.jpgYet, the characters don’t help the script – which, by the way, is quite dull and nonsense as well – by providing over-the-top, unreliable performances, also affected by poor cast choices. Therefore, an already bad writing is worsened by characters that are everything but compelling, especially in regards to the lead actor played by Aaron Poole.

Despite being slightly off-putting and even scary at times, The Void overly relies on gore for the sake of being gory and gruesomeness for the sake of being gruesome. All in all, it’s a bloody mess where even the good sequences get ruined by the poor direction and cinematography.

In addition, everything looks generic and bland, from the photography to the acting, from the look and feel to the score. In general, this is a big missed opportunity; much more could be done with a claustrophobic location, a creepy cult and a terrorising creature that develops from human bodies.

Although I’m not going to spoil the ending, I must say it looks dumb and unnecessarily open to interpretations. Such a cheap movie, with no room for deeper meanings and further evaluations, should have ended with a blast, in an over-the-top, amazingly exaggerated way – à la Braindead (1992), for example.

I sincerely suggest not to see this flick, it’s not worth your time and money. Nevertheless, if you want to give it a chance because nearly everybody seems to enjoy it, go ahead, it can’t harm. Cheers!

 

Jordan Peele’s debut is a breathlessly clever, original and entertaining mixed bag. Get Out – movie review

 

Get Out is written and directed by the renown comedian Jordan Peele at his directorial debut.

 

The movie tells the story of the black photographer, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), who goes for a weekend trip with his wasp (no, not the bug) girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her parents, who have no idea Chris is black.

 

However, the interracial relationship is not a big deal for them, nor for any of the other family member who chat with Chris in the most “liberal-racist” way, if this definition makes any sense. Everybody is complimenting him and claiming to be big fan of Obama, Tiger Woods and a bunch of other famous black people.

 

get-out-keith-stanfieldNevertheless, this awkward behaviour develops alongside with an unsettling feeling which makes Chris feel increasingly uneasy throughout the movie, partly because of the excessive attention he gets, partly in regards to the weird attitude of the servants – black workers who seemingly come from another era.

 

I am deeply pleased to say this movie is an absolute blast, a mixed bag – in the most positive way possible – of true suspense, thrills and comedy. Yes, because Get Out is the definition of entertainment in modern cinema, being able to combine different genres subtly and successfully.

 

Speaking of comedy, Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery) – Chris’ best friend and TSA Officer – steals the entire show every time he’s on screen. As a comic relief, his performance is hands down one of the best I’ve seen the whole year.

 

get-out-trailer-2In addition, Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington is fantastic, being able to carry the story on his own shoulders. Fun fact: Mr. Kaluuya is a Londoner whose accent in the film was perfectly American. You nailed it my friend.

 

untitledHonestly, one of the greatest strengths of Get Out revolves around the cast: nearly everyone was perfectly picked and gave a compelling performance. Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) as Rose’s parents simply knocked it out of the park by combining a tender appearance with a dreadful vibe. Rose herself (Allison Williams) was perfect for her role, as well as “the blind man” – whom I can’t talk about because I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

Perhaps, the only character I haven’t bought into was Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), whose acting is unnecessarily over-the-top and annoying beyond the limits.

 

Other than his performance, I only have a couple of tiny issues with Get Out, the first one being the soundtrack, which is very eerie and unsettling but also generic and formulaic.

 

Moreover, there are a couple of jump-scares (well-crafted ones, in all fairness) which serve no purpose other than startle the audience, without moving the story forward.

 

Nonetheless, I believe Peele has included them in his film to appeal to the mass audience that is used to conventional scares and shivers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily a negative, since thanks to this stopgap Get Out will probably be appreciated by everybody.

 

Peele has also proven himself as an interesting visual director, being able to use long, wide takes to expand the scenes. For instance, to my knowledge the opening scene has been realised with only one take, no cuts or editing. Gotta appreciate that!

 

What I also found positively surprising is the subtleness utilised to introduce to sub-layer of racism. This is not the kind of film where the bad guys are disgusting racist douchebags, nor the John Carpenter’s They Live type of deal. On the contrary, the racism Peele is referring to is the one that hides deep inside the consciousness of liberal people, those who are willing to say anything to prove themselves as everything but racist.

 

Also, the ending is fulfilling and flawless, mostly thanks to the cleverness and strength of our main character Chris, who’s miles away from your average horror movies’ hero.

 

In conclusion, Get Out is a great, fast-paced thriller surrounded by horror elements and a very well-executed social commentary, enriched by comic elements lighting up the darkness of the story. Highly recommended, guys! Give it a chance. Cheers!

 

Skull deer get outEXTRA: the trailer for this movie is something I really wanted to talk about. I usually don’t consider trailers; I try to avoid them as much as possible instead. However, I have a kind of love/hate relationship with the one of Get Out. On one hand, indeed, nearly every scene in the trailer happens within the first 20 minutes of the movie or so, which is a great market strategy. On the other hand, though, there is a brief appearance of a deer skeleton in the trailer that has no room in the movie and I hate this kind of choices, because it’s basically cheating on the audience’s expectations.