Thoughts on Halloween 2018 and the deletion of all previous sequels

Every single fan of the Halloween franchise had gone crazy when John Carpenter, creator of Michael Myers and director of the 1978 iconic slasher movie, announced the release of the last, ultimate sequel to the story of the masked killer and Laurie Strode.

John Carpenter.jpgThis feeling of pure enthusiasm lasted until Carpenter himself claimed the upcoming movie won’t take into account any of the sequels – let alone Rob Zombie’s remake. Fans started ranting on the director/producer and on his ‘disrespectful decision’.

With this controversy polarising horror audiences, I thought it could be somewhat useful to share my opinion about the subject matter, all the while providing my readers with some news about the upcoming Halloween.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Halloween 2018 and the deletion of all previous sequels”

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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”

Office rage breaks loose and it’s loads of fun! Mayhem – movie review

Whoever has had any kind of experience in an office job would know the feeling of being the unhumanised part of a soulless corporation.

Luckily, as an employee of Sky Sports Italia, I don’t get that sensation, but I both experienced it first hand in previous jobs and heard constantly about it from friends and family. Continue reading “Office rage breaks loose and it’s loads of fun! Mayhem – 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)”

An unsettlingly bold combination between psychological and supernatural horror. The Blackcoat’s Daughter – movie review

Oz Perkins’ journey into the reimagination of horror sub-genres has led him to create The Blackcoat’s Daughter, originally released in 2015 under the name February and widely distributed a few months ago with the current title.

In 2016, Perkins had already raised some controversy with I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a 19th century period drama (I’d say) that twisted the “haunted house” sub-genre around and created quite some buzz. Continue reading “An unsettlingly bold combination between psychological and supernatural horror. The Blackcoat’s Daughter – movie review”

Between Let the Right One In and Raw. The Transfiguration – movie review

Transfiguration 1.1.jpgOutcast teenager with shady past and obscure life meets youngster who’s bullied and abused by a bunch of assholes. They team up, go through that stuff and grow up together.

No, guys, I’m not reviewing the ground-breaking Swedish horror drama Let the Right One In (2008). Instead, the one mentioned above is the storyline of The Transfiguration, a 2017 film written and directed by Michael O’Shea at his filmmaking debut. Continue reading “Between Let the Right One In and Raw. The Transfiguration – movie review”

The most Lovecraftian out of King’s adaptations. 1922 – movie review

In 1922, Wilfred James (Thomas Jane, Dreamcatchers and The Mist), a farmer in Nebraska, is dealing with hard moments in his wedding. His wife Arlette (Molly Parker, House of Cards) wants to sell the land, get a divorce and take with her the couple’s teenage son (Henry, played by Dylan Schmid) to Omaha, to live the city life. Continue reading “The most Lovecraftian out of King’s adaptations. 1922 – movie review”

The Classics of Horror #18 – Scream (1996)

In the mid-90s, slasher flicks started to lose impact in a market oversaturated with 7th or 8th installation of franchises soaked in 80s vibe. Yes, they kept giving mass audiences some mindless entertainment, but they completely and utterly gave up on originality and unconventional plots and characters.

Thus, Wes Craven, who contributed to the slasher era with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), decided to spoof the entire sub-genre and its tropes by making Scream, a film so clever that it works both as a parody of slashers and an intense ride nonetheless.

Scream 1When the quiet town of Woodsboro is shocked by a mysterious killer of teenagers known as Ghostface, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) – who’s dealing with post-traumatic syndrome due to the rape and murder of her mother one year prior – and her friends try to figure out who the killer is with the help of a nosey journalist and an incompetent police deputy.

Craven’s umpteenth success shows the constant usage of horror tropes and clichés to criticise their formulaic presence in horror cinema, particularly in the slasher sub-genre. References to Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises are all over the place in this smart meta-slasher.

However, it’s John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) that plays a primary role, with Craven and Kevin Williamson (Scream screenwriter) paying homage to the movie that started it all. Scream even utilises part of the Halloween iconic soundtrack to raise tension in certain sequences and winks to the audience in others.

As he’s done successfully with Nightmare (1984), Wes Craven is able to create a context in which the suspension of disbelief is unnecessary: as opposed to the Jason Voorhees’ movies – which you really can’t overthink about in order to enjoy – or even the first Halloween – great film, but engulfed with unbelievable physics – in Scream universe everything is believable and makes sense within the story. Upon fourth viewing, I still couldn’t find any plot hole! Which is something that never occurs in slasher movies, to be honest.

Scream 2.jpgBesides, Scream benefits from a perfectly balanced combination between “whodunit” mystery and black comedy – obviously, the reveal of Ghostface’s identity toward the end looks silly (as it is in most of the slasher flicks), but the movie gives the audience hints throughout so that the final surprise doesn’t come entirely unexpected. And, above all, makes sense. Craven never lies to its audience in Scream, so that if you paid attention to the story development you’d know why the ending unfolded in that specific way.

As per comedy, the director shows once again his black humour in this film: Craven, to my knowledge, was the first horror director to include comic relief in one of his earliest flicks (The Last House on the Left, 1972) and, although in that case it didn’t quite work, in Scream these aspects blend perfectly with the crime/mystery one.

Scream 3Besides, Scream benefits from a perfectly spot-on casting: there isn’t a standout actor among them, but they all fit perfectly the roles they’ve been assigned with. Mostly, though, the characters they portray are incredibly amusing and entertaining. Sidney, deputy Dewey (David Arquette), unscrupulous news reporter Gale Weather (Courtney Cox), Billy and Stu (Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard) are compelling, entertaining and quotable. Plus, some fun cameos (such as Drew Barrymore, Live Schreiber, Henry Winkler and, of course, Craven himself) make for an extra layer of enjoyment in the movie.

Yet, Wes Craven’s film deserves to be among the horror classics for two main reason: firstly, it made impossible to overlook tiresome clichés in horror flicks ever since Scream came out. In other words, this film deconstructed formulas that made our beloved genre boring and conventional, to the point of being considered almost dead following an influx of direct-to-video titles and numerous sequels to established horror franchises of the 1970s and 1980s.

Which is my second point: thanks to Craven’s masterpiece the horror genre has reborn from its ashes and found new ways to tell scary stories. Surely, the late 90s and early 00s have been quite stingy in terms of good horror films (at least around Hollywood), but the blast of the 2010s is, more or less, indirectly tied to Scream.

All in all, I love the movie and I can only appreciate how much Craven has done for the horror genre. Although Scream is probably less immune to the aging process than other genre classics, it has a special place in my heart and every horror fan should recognise praise that.

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

Welcome to the shaky-cam, off-screen gore fest. Leatherface – movie review

A movie so successful and ground-breaking like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) is destined to spread loads of sequels, prequels, remakes and reboots.

The latest of these is Leatherface, the origin story of the titular character, considered one of the most iconic horror villains of all time.

Leatherface 3Before proceeding with my review, I want to raise a question: is it always necessary to give great, mysterious characters an origin story? My answer is that such a thing is not only unnecessary, but could also be dangerous, taking away the aura of mystery and uneasiness linked to a beloved character.

Nevertheless, I’m always open (and hopeful) to be surprised and prone to change my mind.

Unfortunately, Leatherface only reinforced my convictions, being one of the worst and most disappointing movies of 2017.

I went into it saving an ounce of hope, since the duo of directors were French die-hard fans of Tobe Hooper’s most influential film. France is one of the few countries in which the TCSM formula has been tried with outstanding results – check out Frontiers (2007) and Calvaire (2004) for reference (I know Calvaire is a Belgian film, but they speak French in it, so I allowed myself to cheat a bit).

Furthermore, the two directors (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who previously came out with the fun, gory Inside, 2007) embraced the project with enthusiasm: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the real game-changer… it changed the face of cinema… it’s a masterpiece” (Maury). They were also supervised by Tobe Hooper himself as the executive producer who, sadly, died before the film was released.

Leatherface 1.1Back to the movie: the story is about the dysfunctional Sawyer family that, after murdering the daughter of a local sheriff, sees their youngest son been taken into a mental institution. 10 years after his reclusion, the young Jed (Leatherface in the making) escapes with the help of three deranged patients and nurse, held hostage by the gang. The plotline follows their attempt to reach the Sawyer family, whilst being persecuted by the vindictive sheriff.

Now, this movie is full of flaws, but the biggest one revolves around tone and vibe: other than the first 3 minutes and the last 10, this flick doesn’t look anything like a TCSM film. In terms of locations, none of those utilised in the film remind the viewer of the Texan farms and fields – which makes sense, since it was shot over the course of 27 days (!) in Bulgaria!

Yet, the direction completely forgets about what made the original TCSM a ground-breaking piece of cinema: the gritty realism of the 1974 movie is replaced by over-the-top gore and driven by unlikable, idiotic characters.

Leatherface 1Also, in regards to the violence, Leatherface unwisely chooses to keep the most gruesome scenes off-camera, preferring to show two deranged criminals having sex on a corpse and showing signs of necrophilia. Scenes like these are just disgusting and off-putting, which has nothing to do with real horror or uneasiness. Yet, when the violence is actually on camera, who made the film decided to utilise the cheapest shaky-cam effects and shittiest colour scheme to prevent the viewers from enjoying the scenes.

Again, when it comes to the acting, Leatherface delivers us the most one-dimensional characters I have seen in a while, portrayed awfully by the actors – with the exception of Lili Taylor (Jed’s mom) and the titular protagonist (played fairly well by Sam Strike).

Leatherface 2Luckily enough, the portrayal of Jed/Leatherface is quite respectful of the character: he’s not downright evil, more so a victim of his background and the events that influenced his life. However, for some incomprehensible reason, the directors or writers of the script decide to focus more on other, useless characters, such as the nurse and a fat, mentally unstable goof who have no part in the TCSM universe.

Towards the end, we come back to the Sawyer family house, in which location and cinematography pay homage to the original 1974 film, which was kind of cool to see. Other than that, though, even the grand finale is downright ridiculous and disappointing.

Before I get to my conclusions, let me just add a complaint about an aspect of the movie that bugged me throughout. The editing is awfully jumpy during the entire runtime (only 84 minutes, luckily) and gives the impression of a product that has been released before being polished and refined. Since Leatherface has been shot over 27 days, which is insane, the only thing I could think of is that they just wanted to get it over with and come out with whatever shipwreck that could achieve in such a limited time. And this is what really pisses me off about a movie, because it shows little interest for audience and even less passion for your profession.

In conclusion, I strongly suggest not to watch Leatherface: if you’re a huge fan of the TCSM universe, this flick would likely let you down. If you’re just looking for some gory, mindless entertainment, instead, just check out something else which may allow you to see what’s going on. Cheers!