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”
I owe this one to Candace Krissie (hope I spelled your name right, my friend), who solved a puzzle in one of my previous posts and got herself a review as a reward!
Her pick was Pet Sematary, another Stephen King’s adaptation, this time around adapted by the author himself to a movie. This is one of the few cases in which King worked on a movie first hand, besides the infamous Maximum Overdrive (1986).
Luckily, though, Pet Sematary is ten times better than the first King’s attempt behind the camera. Actually, I forgot how great this movie was until I picked up and watched it again.
The story is rather simple: a super happy and cute family, with two kids and a gorgeous cat, move to a house between a motorway where huge, fat trucks pass and a pet cemetery (misspelled by some kid in sematary). Obviously, many pets have been killed and buried in that ground, which is what happens to Winston Churchill (that’s the name of the cat… nice!).
Consequently, a sweet, old neighbour tells the dad that he should take the cat corpse to a burial ground behind the titular ‘pet sematary’ is located, because, over there, weird stuff happens: among which, of course, dead beings coming back to life. The dad decides to give it a try and, eventually, Church resuscitates… he’s just mean as hell, now!
What if, say, one of the kids dies? That would put daddy in a sticky situation. And I don’t want to spoil an almost 30-year-old film, but something must happen, right?
I love this movie! Firstly, the whole look and feel, with the evident late 80s-early 90s vibe, is just amazing: it drags you into the movie immediately. Secondly, Pet Sematary makes great use of set-design and location, which make you feel captivated by the environment and the old legend and myths.
Yet, the characters and their performances are great, probably my favourite part of the movie. The kids, especially the young boy, are incredibly adorable and the parents so loving and caring. Even the neighbour looks and sounds like a lovely grandpa. All this character introduction and development is fundamental and I think Pet Sematary does a great job at making you feel for them and, possibly, be deeply sad when something dramatic affects this family.
Despite the established atmosphere, the movie gets very dark and graphic towards the end. It’s not A Serbian Film type-of-deal, obviously, but it makes for an effective contrast with the happy family build-up. Also, said grand finale that I won’t give away, is very intense and well executed.
Even though I’m a sucker for this King’s adaptation, I can’t deny the presence of a few flaws. To begin with, at points the film looks a bit campy and the quite mediocre special effects don’t help. Furthermore, there is some clear exposition thrown in the mix that seems unnecessary.
If you can overlook these minute issues, though, you have to check Pet Sematary if you haven’t yet. Finally, I admire the whole symbolic discussion on ‘how to deal with the consequences of death’, which is something not to be overlooked. Strongly recommend it!
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.
These 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.
And 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.
The 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.
This 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).
A few films have been as controversial as It Comes at Night recently.
In the case of Trey Edward Shults’s latest film, though, all the controversy lies in the polarised reactions the movie got upon its release. Something reminiscent of what happened with The Witch (2016), loved by critics and niche audiences; panned and literally hated by the majority of moviegoers.
Contrarily to my usual reviewing pattern, I will give my opinion on the film before even talking about it, with a little premise nonetheless.
If you are in for 90 minutes of challenging, demanding, unconventional plot and execution, check It Comes at Night out. It’s a very good movie which you can’t help but respect for its attempt to an original concept and an execution filled with intriguing imagery and symbolism.
However, if you like more conventional horror flicks, with tons of scares along the way, maybe some gore and ounces of frightening creatures, stay away from It Comes at Night. You guys would hate it and rant about it to your friends, discouraging them from checking out a movie that might actually be their cup of tea and, therefore, forcing a viewpoint on a film that has to be seen with the right state of mind.
If you belong to the first group, you can proceed with this blog post that might tickle your curiosity; otherwise, read it if you want and I’ll try to explain why I think It Comes at Night is a good (and important) film.
I believe the best way to experience Shults’s flick is going in it completely blind. The lesser you now, the better.
Which is why I won’t describe the plot and I’d suggest you to avoid trailers and any web page telling you what this movie is about.
It’s just important for you to know that we follow 6 main characters (two families, each one composed by husband, wife and son) who are apparently locked up in a cabin in the woods where they believe they can’t go out at night but only in daytime with a good dose of precautions.
Without a single standout protagonist, the characters in this movie are very much able to carry the plot along and create intriguing relationships between them.
The casting choices are on spot, with Joel Edgerton leading the way in one of the best performances of his career (which is saying something…).
The cinematography is stunning and seems a character by itself, since through it the director is able to convey emotions and tension.
In fact, It Comes at Night is a very suspenseful flick, which plays with your expectations and cleverly reverts the horror clichés we are used to.
Yet, as I previously mentioned, this film has an ongoing symbolism which appears, for example, when a red door is shown on screen representing the passage between life and death.
However, to me the movie never looks too artsy or pretentious. The characters, for example, are extremely realistic as well as their interaction: crude and gritty at its core.
The true horror this mystery movie shows, is the one that lies within every human being when the situation gets desperate: sexual desire, uncertainty, lack of trust in others, family, love… all these feelings are implicitly explored in It Comes at Night.
The ending, which obviously I’m not going to give away, is not fully fledged but matches the rest of the movie. Most viewers will hate it, I personally think it’s okay but could have been better.
Yet, in the movie clearly emerges a lack of balance between dream sequences and real events. The horror scenes belong only to the dream sequences, which makes them less impactful and slightly frustrating.
I get their purpose within the dreams, but I still think the movie would have benefited from some more unsettling imagery with the characters awake.
Besides, the other issue I have with the film revolves around the director’s intentions. Specifically, I believe Shults pushed it too hard when he claimed: “a lot of questions are left unanswered intentionally, for a reason and I hope it sticks with you. I hope it doesn’t frustrate”. Although this lack of explanation makes for an anxiety-inducing, on the other hand, it gives the annoying impression of faulty creative flair.
In conclusion, It Comes at Night is not a film for everyone. Very susceptible to generate frustration and confusion in certain viewers, it is mandatory to go into this movie with the correct approach and a deep interest in cinema. In other words, if you prefer disposable horror flicks, please avoid It Comes at Night and go watch Annabelle: Creation. To be clear, I don’t mean this in a demeaning way, I’m serious when I warn you about this film. You’ve been warned. Cheers!
PREMISE: as you might know if you have been following my series on the classics of horror, I’m tackling 20 milestones of the genre chronologically.
Does it mean that I’m skipping Psycho (1960)? No way, I would never commit such a crime against humanity. I just decided to switch the two movies – Psycho and Rosemary – around, because my girlfriend bought us tickets for an outdoor screening of Hitchcock’s film on Friday 14th, which means I can make a ‘special’ review for it that will come out on Monday 17th.
With all of that said, let’s dive into what is considered one of the best (if not the best) horror film of all time – Rosemary’s Baby.
In all fairness, though, the definition of ‘best horror of all time’ has been labelled to half of the iconic movies on this list.
Anyway, directed by Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby tells the story of a wealthy couple – Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a bright but naive young housewife, and Guy (John Cassavetes), her husband, a struggling actor – that move into a new apartment in New York City.
However, what seems to be just flowers and unicorns, soon turns into an ocean of awkwardness, angst and fear, with Rosemary and Guy being surrounded by macabre events and nosy neighbours who seem to have an obsessive curiosity for ‘Ro’ and her future kid…
First addition to the series originally made in technicolour, Rosemary’s Baby is a journey within fears and concerns of a woman who’s about to get pregnant from a self-centred husband all wrapped into his career and aspirations. It’s a maternity story told through the lens of mystery and horror, since the troubles Rosemary goes through in the film are either caused by her unstable psychological health or witchcrafts elaborated by people around her. Which one of those if for the viewer to figure out throughout the runtime.
According to modern standards, this film appears more as a psychological thriller – with supernatural elements in it – than a pure horror. Nonetheless, the audience back in the 60s was shocked by Polanski’s movie.
In fact, me and my girlfriend (who I re-watched the film with) struggled to believe the director got away with so many naked scenes, considering how puritan America was in the 60s.
Other than that, Rosemary’s Baby manages to be highly unsettling for its themes and some gross and gut-wrenching scenes – according to the standards at the time.
The effectiveness of such crucial moments in the movie is guaranteed by the performances – Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet (the nosy neighbour) won a well-deserved Award for Best Supporting Actress, for example.
The cast should be praised for that, obviously, but Polanski and his ‘awful behaviour on set’ (according to Mia Farrow) played a massive role in the film and its realism. For instance, Farrow was vegetarian when the film was shot but the director forced her to eat real rabbit liver in front of the camera to make the sequence more realistic – which brings me to believe that her throwing up in the sink straight after wasn’t in the script but more so a genuine reaction…
Yet, another prime example is the scene where Rosemary walks into traffic, which was spontaneous and genuine: Polanski told Farrow that “nobody will hit a pregnant woman”!
Besides all of that, I believe Rosemary’s Baby is the first ‘modern’ horror on this list, in terms of scare factors and enjoyability. However, although deemed as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry, the film isn’t flawless.
Being two hours and fifteen minutes long, the first half hour drags a bit too much – it develops the character and takes its time to set up the story, but could have been cut shorter by getting rid of a few unnecessary sequences. Or, alternatively, could have been utilised to better explain the frustrations and anxieties of Guy, silent protagonist of this motion picture.
Also, the ending is a bit disappointing, even though it doesn’t ruin the movie even in the slightest.
Apart from these little flaws, Rosemary’s Baby deserved the title of masterpiece, featuring a great and purposely earing soundtrack that completes each scene masterfully.
Definitely a must-see for all horror fans out there, don’t miss it out. Cheers!
The Exorcist (2016-2017) tells the story of Angela (Geena Davis), a mother in a wealthy family overwhelmed by tragedy and issues: her husband Harry is recovering from serious brain damages, her older daughter Kat is dealing with a serious trauma and consequent depression and her younger daughter, Casey… well, she’s possessed by a vicious demon.
Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera), their community’s priest and “rising star” within the Church’s hierarchy, investigates on the case and tries to help the family go through their troubles, whilst being backed up by outcast exorcist Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels).
Meanwhile, a satanic cult – led by demons who reached the fully possession of their hosts – is trying to take over Chicago and kill the Pope in visit to the city.
Divided in 10 episodes, each one of them directed by a different person and based on the William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name, The Exorcist is a sequel to the movie The Exorcist (1973). Which, mind you, I was completely unaware of, since I went into this series without knowing anything apart from the cast members.
So, if you have not seen it yet, I recommend you to go watch it immediately, without proceeding further in this review – which is going to contain minor spoilers and hints to the plot twists. I would only say that The Exorcist is probably the best horror series since AHS: Asylum (2012-2013).
As was made obvious since the synopsis of the series, Father Tomas and Father Marcus team up to defeat – i.e. exorcise – the demon that’s possessing Casey, which seems to have a grudge against Angela’s family.
The demon itself is an entity that horror fans got to know already 44 years ago: Pazuzu, who, after having haunted Regan MacNeil in the movie, is now craving for the Rance family’s souls in the TV series.
Pazuzu – masterfully played by Robert Emmet Lunney – is a pivotal character in the series and is given a backstory and in-depth explanation of his behaviour which make him a very compelling villain.
Thus, the series perfectly links to the original film, enriching the characters and providing different outlooks to the story.
Moreover, contrarily to many TV series, all the actors have been cast appropriately, with Ben Daniels and Hannah Kasulka being the standouts. Geena Davis instead, who plays Angela Rance, seems quite an unlikable and unreliable character throughout the first 5 episodes. However, once her motivations and backstory are revealed, she becomes arguably the best, most rounded character in the series and she carries along huge chunks of the plot in the final episodes.
The chemistry between Tomas and Marcus is also astounding. It reminds me of the contrasting relationship between Rust Cole and Marty Hart in True Detective (2013) – although such high levels of perfection could hardly be reached, in my opinion. Marcus (Ben Daniels) gives the required physicality to his role and avoids to going for the over-the-top route, which in some sequences must not have been easy.
Casey (Hannah Kasulka) is also a pleasant surprise: her character ranges from adorable and defenceless to unsettling and terrifying – in the first episode, for example, she’s absolutely frightening in the scene in the attic.
Despite the high-budget to their disposal, the directors decided to rely on CGI only in a few, minor scenes, whereas the practical effects and, especially, the makeup are always spot-on. Which is something worth-praising.
To be fair, I was a bit afraid when I’ve seen that every episode would have been directed by a different person. I thought the continuity could have suffered from it. Instead, the plot flows seamlessly and The Exorcist looks more like an 8-hour-long film than a series of 40-minute-long episodes.
Even though the series flows well, three episodes stand out in my opinion: the first one (captivating and suspenseful), the fifth (action-packed and intense) and the last (powerful, fulfilling and, surprisingly, emotional).
I can’t end this review, though, without mentioning the score: jaw-dropping! My ears were in pure delight listening to the remake of the original soundtrack from The Exorcist – the movie.
Overall, The Exorcist is an intense and satisfying ride that humbly pays homage to the film and novel of the same name. It also rarely holds back and combines horror elements (including bloody, violent and hyper-sexualised scenes) with intriguing sub-plots and interesting social commentaries, carried along altogether by a top-notch cast. Highly recommended. Cheers!
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.
Recently 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.
Milliken: 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!
It, the latest Stephen King’s adaptation, is coming out soon (8th September in the Unites States) and will be directed by the Argentinian filmmaker Andres Muschietti.
Since both the first and the second trailer to the killer clown’s film have pumped the viewers beyond every expectation, it’s worth taking a look to the previous feature-length movie directed by Muschietti.
Mama (2013) is based on the short film of the same name, also directed by Muschietti, and tells the story of two young sisters who have lost their parents, lived for a while in an abandoned cabin in the woods and rescued by their dad’s twin brother Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Any fan of Game of Thrones here?) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain).
Being very little when they got lost in the forest, Victoria and Lilly have created an imaginary mother-figure called Mama who, according to them, has been looking after them all along while they were trapped in the woods. Since Lucas and Annabel have a hard time with the custody of the sisters, they turn to psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss, who first discovers Mama might be something more than only an imaginary friend…
Purely judging by the first two acts of the movie, I’d say Muschietti is the right guy to direct It.
Atmosphere, sounds design, use of colours and cinematography are brilliant. There is an ongoing greenish tonality surrounding every shot that makes for an overall suspenseful vibe, while it also guarantees an implied symbolism regarding Mother Nature and the relationship mother-daughter which will be revealed towards the end of the film.
Yet, the camera-work hints to dangers and perils without showing them, by framing the screen as if it’s split in two symmetric parts and hiding the paranormal element from the viewer’s sight.
Therefore, over the first hour of runtime, Mama is a quite frightening movie, despite not having breath-taking scary moments – other than two rather effective jump-scares.
Also, the acting is really good. Especially in regards to Jessica Chastain and the two kids. Nothing mind-blowing, but definitely above average performances.
The film lost me in the third act, though. Due to an over-reliance on CGI, the last thirty minutes or so of Mama are silly and, since the rest of the movie is very watchable, also frustrating.
Again, the reveal itself and its execution are silly and extremely ‘in your face’, so that the mystery and ambiguity built up until that point get crashed, leaving nothing but disappointment.
Mama’s ending is one of the few reasons why I’m afraid It would not live up to the expectations. As the 1990’s mini-series has taught us, the problem with the Stephen King’s adaptation consists of not making its ending dumb and laughable. And, unfortunately, so far Andres Muschietti hasn’t proved us he could work out a worthy conclusion for its movies.
Nevertheless, Mama is a watchable, middle-of-the-road horror flick which can be enjoyable but also frustrating at points. With an amazing source material, such as the novel It is based on, let’s hope Muschietti could do a better job with its next film. Cheers!
*Skip the premise if you read the previous posts*
Regarded by many as the best horror director working today, James Wan (27 February 1977) went on also screenwriting and producing many of his movie as well as various flicks connected to his works, such as the Saw and Insidious sequels.
Being able to revitalise several horror clichés, such as tiresome jump-scares and redundant possession-driven plots, Mr. Wan is surrounded by a claque of die-hard fans.
Independently from the single person’s opinion, throughout the last 15 years or so James Wan has had a strong impact of both the independent horror market and the public discussions on the genre. Because of his impact, I decided to analyse and review his movie from the perspective of a neutral horror-lover and passionate moviegoer. I hope you will enjoy this new series.
The Conjuring (2013) tells the story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorrain Warren, an actual couple who, from the 1950s to the 1970s, studied numerous cases connected with possible supernatural activities. To my knowledge, though, The Conjuring franchise as well as the 17 (!) Amityville Horror films are only loosely based on the actual – and quite controversial – events.
That said, in this flick Ed (Patrick Wilson, by then established as the official James Wan’s muse) and Lorrain (Vera Farmiga) are facing a demon who, allegedly, is haunting a dilapidated farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, where Roger and Carolyn Perron move with their five daughters (poor dad, his life should have been a nightmare even before the move). And their lovely dog.
Again, the plot is quite similar to the Insidious films and tons of other generic flicks we all have seen thousands of times. Which is the reason why, despite all the praises, I’ve always shied away from The Conjuring (don’t stone me yet, please) until I decided to give it a try at the end of 2016. Also, this is one of my girlfriend’s all-time favourite horror movies, which is why I chose to start this series, beyond the popularity of the director.
Before I dive into the movie I should explain that I decided to cover the two films within the same post because, as for Insidious, I can’t help but consider them as a two-part movie, as a whole.
With the biggest budget to his disposal so far (£20 million), Mr. Wan opted for better locations and a more open and intriguing cinematography, which he has combined with his unique, stylised touch we’ve seen previously in Insidious and Dead Silence. Through these clever choices, he’s been able to improve upon his previous works and, contemporarily, not falling into the trap of using CGI or cartoonish imagery.
Yet, another improvement regards the characters and their chemistry. Although Insidious already had an interesting character development, in The Conjuring the interrelationship between the couple of demonologists and the Perron adds a layer of complexity which makes for a compelling story where it’s really easy to root for our protagonists.
Furthermore, Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren is highly convincing and represents a great replacement for Rose Byrne. Similarly, Mr. Wilson knocks it out of the park, proving once again that his connection with the director is great. Such a lovely bromance! The casting is spot on in regards to everyone, since every single member of the Perrons has a distinct, quite tangible personality and attitude.
As per usual, the jump-scares serve as an embellishment of the atmosphere, which is also supported by a great score and the scariest opening credits Warner Brothers has ever had.
Another aspect this film should be acclaimed for is the lack of killings and gore, which underlines the talent of James Wan and his crew at generating fear and creepiness without relying on violence, disgust and disturbing images.
However, the first sequence (the one with Annabelle in it) and the ending are not very fulfilling, at least for me. Also, think about it: if Wan wouldn’t have started the movie with that stupid doll, now we wouldn’t have that abomination against cinema also known as Annabelle (2014). And its sequel, which comes out this year and I will have to review it… damn it!
Despite those minute details, I honestly appreciate The Conjuring. I have seen it twice now and I want to see it again, thanks to its rewatchability factor, entertaining story, stunning cinematography, great characters and acting, awesome soundtrack.
The Conjuring 2 (2016) gave me the same feeling. Again, Wan directed the sequel to tell a story and tell it in an intriguing, exciting and entertaining way, not only to get more money or for pure fan service.
This time around we are in an English shire, specifically in a small town where the Hodgson family – mostly their daughter, though – are hounded by not only one, but even three different paranormal entities: The Old Man, The Crooked Man and the most vicious one, Valak (or The Nun).
As I mentioned above, an aspect I really like about this movie is that it feels like the natural continuation of the first instalment.
However, The Conjuring 2 improves upon the first film by giving a deeper and more intriguing backstory to the Hodgson, taking its time to make the audience care for them. Indeed, this movie has an incredibly long runtime of 134 minutes, which feel surprisingly fast instead, due to the pacing and the brilliant execution that never allow a single dull moment.
Yet, Ed and Lorrain are the strengths of this film as well, as it was in the previous. If it’s possible, their relationship and their emotions are highlighted even better than in The Conjuring. And Vera Farmiga’s performance is indubitably astounding.
Again, the atmosphere is creepy and unsettling, a slumber tone and vibe characterises the entire film. The English rain definitely helps in achieving that sensation (trust me, it happens in real life as well…).
However, for this movie James Wan could count on a 40-million-pound budget which, despite helping him to improve some technical aspects, made him make the mistake to utilise the CGI where it wasn’t needed. The Crooked Man, in fact completely made up through special effects, looks laughable instead of scary and doesn’t match with the other villains, way more believable because made with practical effects.
Also, there is an overabundance of enemies in this movie: The Old Man seems a cheap device to maintain the suspense and the film would simply have been better without The Crooked Man. Nevertheless, Valak is quite convincing, very frightening and the CGI, mixed with practical effects, makes for a compelling villain. No surprise then when a spin-off titled The Nun has been announced (oh crap… let’s hope it’s better than Annabelle).
All in all, I prefer the Conjuring to its sequel, although for some aspects the second instalment was able to improve upon the first, which is not that obvious nowadays. I still recommend to watch both movies as the two part of a same story, at least to enjoy the characters development and the great directorial skills of Mr. Wan.
In conclusion: although my personal taste makes me prefer unconventional horror movies, where the genres mix and combine to create original products, I think James Wan is indeed one of the best horror directors working today, especially when it comes to atmosphere, practical effects and style to the service of mass audiences’ pleasure. Even though I recognise Saw as his best movie, from a technical and storytelling standpoint, my favourite one is probably Insidious, followed closely by The Conjuring. Check out all his horror flicks, though, you won’t waste your time. Cheers!
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.
Nevertheless, 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.
In 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.
Honestly, 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!
EXTRA: 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.