Why origin stories suck!

Why origin stories suckHorror cinema is filled with iconic villains, figures who induce chills down our spines thanks to their creepy, shady motivations. Reincarnations of evil, mysterious entities without a face, masked killers who aren’t very talkative to say the least: regardless who, or what, the antagonist in a horror movie is, they scare/creep us out because of the inescapability of their actions.

Or so it was until somebody, somewhere, thought it would have been a good idea to draw mystery and uncertainty off by giving villains an origin story.

I thought about writing about this topic upon reading about the upcoming release of Leatherface – which, eventually, I watched and pretty much thought it was worthless.

That’s beside the point, though.

You might think that I’m a purist of horror cinema, because I’m a reviewer, thus I’m just sitting here waiting to trash movies and focus solely to spot flaws and mistakes – I hope you can read my reviews and see that’s not exactly my goal. Continue reading “Why origin stories suck!”

Advertisements

Myths and thrills create a creepy night terror experience. Slumber – movie review

Everybody has been creeped out at least once by a friend or family member who sleepwalked or sleep-talked during the night, awakening us with a real-life jump-scare creepier than the entire Paranormal Craptivity franchise (definition by my friend Jimmy).

Slumber – an American/British movie that will have its wide release only in 2018 – plays with this primal fear and mixes it with ancient Eastern European myths.

Slumber 1Alice (Maggie Q), a doctor specialised in sleep disorders who’s been haunted by nightmares related to the sleepwalking death of her younger brother when she was just a child, is investigating on a family who suffered from the loss of their youngest kid. Mom, dad, brother and sister are dealing with recurrent nightmares who cause them dangerous sleepwalking episodes and terrifying sleep paralysis. Whilst this might depend on them coming to terms with grief and depression, the youngest boy, Danny (Lucas Bond), proves particularly vulnerable to physical harm during the episodes in which he sees a creepy figure lingering on him and preventing him from moving or screaming.

Continue reading “Myths and thrills create a creepy night terror experience. Slumber – movie review”

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”

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”

The Classics of Horror #17 – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is the only horror movie to be awarded for Best Picture by the Academy and third to be nominated in the category after The Exorcist (1973) and Jaws (1975).

When I personally think about this masterpiece, I feel like this is the first modern entrance in the Classics of Horror list, which is probably due to the fact that I was born the year The Silence of the Lambs was released.

Silence of the Lambs 1The film is obviously centred around the infamous Hannibal Lecter (played masterfully by Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist with a bit of an obsession for murders and cannibalism. In prison for his crimes, Lecter is approached by young and inexpert FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who needs the serial killer’s help to put behind the bars another psychopath: Buffalo Bill, portrayed by Ted Levine.

This inventive set-up (based on the 1998 novel The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris) makes for an enthralling cat and mouse game, where it’s unsure who’s in control and two great villains (Lecter and Buffalo Bill) create nearly unsolvable puzzles.

In all honestly, I don’t know what to say about this movie that hasn’t been said tons of times before: after all, The Silence of the Lambs represents only the third case in cinema history in which a movie received all the “Big Five” Oscars – best picture, best actor, best actress, best direction and best screenplay!

Therefore, I decided to provide you with some ‘fun facts’ (curiosities, if you will), about the movie.

1)   Gene Siskel, one of the greatest movie reviewers ever (and a very inspirational figure to me) dismissed the movie as a “star-studded freak show” in a 1992 interview.

2)   Gene Hackmann was meant to be directing the movie and starring as Hannibal Lecter. Although I’m sure he  would have done a great job, this sliding door scenario would have deprived us of one of the most iconic performances in horror/thriller history, by Hopkins.

Silence of the Lambs 23)   The infamous scene in which Doctor Lecter creepily hisses to Clarice behind the glass of his cell was improvised by Hopkins, who meant it as a comic relief! Now, please tell me that Anthony Hopkins is not a creepy person in general…

4)   Daniel Day-Lewis (who I’m in love with as an actor) and Sean Connery were also considered for the part of Hannibal Lecter. We would either have had an eccentric, lunatic killer or an extremely polite and manipulative murderer: Hopkins mixes these two aspects perfectly.

5)   Hopkins used people’s common fear of doctors and dentists to ramp up the scares.

6)   Scott Glenn, one of the actors involved in the project, was taken to Quantico, Virginia to listen to tapes of serial killers raping, killing and torturing their victims, in order to have him more immersed in the character and story. As a result, he allegedly walked out in tears and, soon after, became a strong supporter of the death penalty. This anecdote should make rethink everybody who doesn’t consider The Silence of the Lambs a horror movie!

7)   Buffalo Bill’s character was shaped around three notorious serial killers: Ted Bundy, Gary H. Heidnik and Ed Gein.

8)   Bill’s dancing scene was not in the screenplay. But it’s terrifying nonetheless, unlike some scene we’ve seen recently in a M. Night’s movie, right?

Silence of the Lambs 39)   The skull of the moth in the movie poster is borrowed from a Salvador Dalí’s photo

10)                  The amazing title of both novel and film comes from a dialogue in the book (reused in the movie) in which Lecter compares the screaming of lambs to that of his victims.

The Classics of Horror #16 – Misery (1990)

Legend says that Stephen King, dissatisfied by his latest adaptations, asked Rob Reiner to work on the transposition of his novel Misery (1987) to film.

The director behind the awesome Stand by me (1986) agreed to work on a King’s source material once again. As a result, Misery (the movie) came out in 1990, starring Kathy Bates and James Caan.

Winning an award to Bates for best actress in a leading role, Misery probably deserved even more. I’m so in love with this movie!

Partly, it’s because the type of movies revolving around a few characters locked up somewhere (à la 12 Angry Men, 1957) have always had a special place in my heart. With very little to work with, this formula exploits its potential as a character study, which is something I always found mesmerising, as a cinephile.

What kind of ‘secluded’ situation are we dealing with in Misery, then? Basically, famous writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) has just finished its latest novel about (you guessed it) Misery. She’s a character he built his career around but decided to kill off to move on as a writer. Driving back home after finishing said book, Paul ends up having a car accident due to a snowstorm.

Paul and his only copy of the manuscript get saved by a nurse, Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). Good for him. Or maybe not?

In fact, quite soon after Paul is taken to Annie’s isolated house, he notices something is off with the nurse, who claims to be “her biggest fan” and, perhaps, is a bit overly obsessed with him and the character of Misery.

From now on, the audience is gripped to a story which sees an immobilised Paul (with his legs broken and in rather bad conditions) trying to escape his host, while Annie pushes him to rewrite his latest novel and make it more ‘Misery friendly’.

Misery is, clearly, a character driven horror/drama/thriller, I’d say. Good for us, the performances by the two leads are great.

Misery 1Kathy Bates, in the role that made her famous, is just fantastic: she ranges from being creepily sweet and caring to going bad shit insane and violent. For instance, when Caan realises her madness for the first time, the sequence is handled so well by Bates’ performance. The way she gestures and speaks, coming up with the most ridiculous ways to cover her swearing, is just terrific. Impressively enough, from that first insanity moment on her acting improves and every time I watch this movie, I don’t see Kathy Bates on screen: I see freaking Annie Wilkes.

Not to be overlooked though, is James Caan’s performance. To begin with, he mostly only had his facial expressions to rely on and still manages to be extremely believable and compelling. Also, at certain points in the film, his character needs to pretend to have different feelings: do you have any idea how hard it is to be a character within a character? Yes, Bates steals the show, but Caan at his best was also a delight to look at.

Misery 2.pngYet, there is a subplot involving two other characters (a sheriff and his wife) that both links the story together and introduces us these amazing people, a likable and funny old couple. I love the sheriff, he’s so genuine and quotable: “Virginia, when we are in the car you’re not my wife; you’re my deputy!”. Great stuff!

Again, the direction of Rob Reiner is spotless: the whole movie has an incredible, somewhat nostalgic vibe that makes everything so intriguing, even the scenes that could have become dull. The set design is, also, amazing: everything looks lived-in and realistic. The camera-work even manages to create some great sequences and peeps to the action from uneven angles.

Misery 3Besides the infamous ‘hammer scene’ which Misery is famous for even among those who haven’t seen it, this film delivers some intense psychological torture. For a passionate writer having to burn or rewrite their book must be very hard to take. I mean, even I get mad when I forget to save a post and I have to write it again from the beginning!

In all honestly, I don’t think there is any flaw in this movie. Well, other than a tiny editing mistake that you’d notice only if you’re as obsessed as I am with the technical aspects of a movie. Also, I didn’t love the score, because sometimes highlights too much the most intense scenes.

Anyway, Misery is simply a masterpiece. I probably consider it one of my all-time favourite movies, one that also happens to feature an awesome, fulfilling and climactic ending. Must watch!

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 #12 – The Shining (1980)

With the impending release of IT in the cinemas all around the world, let’s take a look back to one of the most successful Stephen’s King adaptations: The Shining.

The Shinig 1.jpgStanley Kubrick’s masterpiece hasn’t always been the undeniable gem is considered today: receiving mixed reviews upon its release and criticised by King himself as unfaithful to the source material, The Shining developed a cult following, first, and then a widespread acclaim only a few years after it came out.

On his part, Stanley Kubrick didn’t make any effort to please King with this adaptation: in more than an interview, he called the author’s work weak and susceptible of improvement!

“I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat”, was King’s reaction to the movie.

What a clash between two titans!

Whether you side with the writer or support the director, the impact of both novel and film are undeniable. The Shining is a milestone of the horror genre, independently from the medium it utilises.

The story, quite straightforward, is gripping nonetheless. Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson) is an ex alcoholic, now writer, who is hired to keep the Overlook Hotel clean and tidy over winter, when the facility gets closed because the season is too cold and the maintenance too expensive.

Jack moves there with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd). Yes, Kubrick didn’t make any effort to come up with the characters’ name!

Jokes apart, the Torrance family is obligated to cope with solitude and creepy stories that haunt the facility, which, eventually, drive Jack insane and make him try to kill his loved ones.

This simple set-up has been studied and analysed tons of times throughout the years: metaphor of King’s addiction to cocaine and alcohol? Hallucination of the insane mind of Jack Torrance? Ghost story located in a haunted hotel? Symbolic enactment of the holocaust? Nightmare linked to Native Americans’ cemeteries?

Regardless, the movie is good for what it is, without the need for absurdly long and profound explanations. In my opinion, The Shining is simply a work of art.

The Shining 1.1.jpgFrom a technical viewpoint, this film is perfect: the cinematography is stunning, the camera-work is mesmerising (with the introduction of Steadicam and other revolutionary techniques), the direction is spotless.

In regards to the latter, the perfectionism of Kubrick is well-known, including the fact that he wanted to repeat certain sequences an insane amount of time (the dialogue between Danny and chef Dick Hallorann, masterfully portrayed by Scatman Crothers, took 167 takes!). Which is why the film took 5 years to be made… an eternity in comparison to most of the flicks coming out today.

At the end, though, the slow process paid off and gave us a unique cinematic experience.

However, I imagine many modern viewers being let down by The Shining. Similarly to the making-process, the pace is rather slow and only upon second or third view it’s possible to notice some fundamental details that go unnoticed when you watch the movie for the first time.

The Shining featureYet, the acting is brilliant for the most part. Jack Nicholson, despite being considered miscast by Stephen King (really?), was born to play Jack Torrance in The Shining, with his borderline personality and uneasy on-screen presence. Scatman Crothers is also eye-grabbing and delivers the best performance of his career. Danny, a pivotal character in this film, gives a great child-actor performance as well.

On the other hand, Shally Duvall’s acting has been considered wooden and soulless since the movie came out. I tended to agree on this criticism for a long time, however, the more I watch the film the more I realise she pulled it off the way she was required to. Her character is supposed to be relatively meek, submissive, passive, and mousy and she delivers those sensations perfectly.

The Shining 3.jpgThe Shining is, overall, a marvelous film, yes, but is it scary? I can see people being genuinely frightened by the movie in the 80s, however today it’s lost part of its scare-factor, despite some chilling scenes such as the room 237 one and the two twins sequence.

Nevertheless, it still deserves its place on the numerous ‘best horror movies of all time’ lists and, in general, it’s just a great piece of cinema history that must be seen.

In conclusion, “I’m not gonna hurt you, I’m just gonna bash your brains in” if you don’t give The Shining a chance! Or, at least, that’s what Jack Torrance would tell you.

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!

Annabelle (2014) – movie review

Whit Annabelle coming out soon (the release date in the UK is the 11th of August), I decided to make a step back to the first spinoff of this horror franchise linked to The Conjuring universe.

If you previously read some of my older posts, you might have noticed that Annabelle is mentioned quite a few times in them.

Mostly, I used it as a titular example of soulless flick made on a small budget with the only purpose of milking money out of moviegoers’ pockets – which I talked about in-depth in regards to The Conjuring cinematic universe.

Therefore, I hope you’ll sympathise with me for having made the excruciating effort of sitting through this atrocity against humanity… for the second time.

Annabelle tells the absolutely unneeded and uninteresting story of a possessed doll that, after being cursed by a cultist, haunts the house and lives of John and Mia Form, a newly married couple living in California in the 60s/70s (presumably…).

Annabelle 1Mia is pregnant and, due to her insane passion for creepy-ass dolls, fills the room of her upcoming daughter with these hideous puppets. John, despite being short in money, decides to buy her Annabelle which costs him two months’ worth of rent, ignoring its horrendous appearance and the fact that it would scare every kid in the world to death.

When two cultists (a man and his daughter) break into their house to kill the lovely couple for some unexplained reason, they curse the doll which seems to embody either a demon or the vindictive spirit of the woman. Or both. Who cares?

After witnessing weird paranormal phenomena that jeopardise Mia and her new-born daughter (Leah), the wife decides to throw the doll in the bin and move away, which her husband reluctantly agrees on – despite being stereotypically sceptical and for no reasons unaware of what’s happening.

Anyway, they move to a humongous flat, although not having enough money to pay both bills and buy a hideous doll. However, Annabelle comes back due to her superdoll powers and keeps haunting them until a pointless sacrifice saves the family in one of the most disappointing ending I have ever seen.

Directed by John R. Leonetti, who previously made Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2 (two of the worst movies ever made), Annabelle is deemed to be awful.

The concept it’s based on is laughable to begin with: another killer-doll movie is as about necessary as one revolving around a board game (knock Ouija door for confirmation).  

Annabelle 2Nevertheless, the execution is even worse: this film feels like an endless stream of exposition scenes, filled with boring dialogue between characters as compelling as a potato.

From time to time, jump-scares are thrown in the mix and they look cheap, unfrightening and, overall, silly. Other than a fairly good one, which makes for 10 seconds of watchable stuff out of 96 minutes.

The rest is just generic: the soundtrack, the cinematography, the editing… all of that is made up in the attempt to create some scary moments that will never come.

Sub-plots are thrown in a sequence and never explored again; characters make a statement and retract it in the very next scene; the husband always has to go to (or stay at) work because the director doesn’t know what to do with him.

Furthermore, in this flick universe, there is no space for other human beings than the characters directly involved in the story: streets are empty in broad daylight, buildings look always uninhabited, shops are deserted.

This is Annabelle guys, a shameless attempt to rip off better films and a soulless money-grabbing train wreck that is about as scary as a Smurfs episode. Don’t watch it, ever!

To conclude, I just want to clarify that I decided to review this movie because, despite all the premises, I’m really curious to see Annabelle: Creation for two main reasons.

Firstly, the director openly despised the first Annabelle as a terrible film. Secondly, he proved himself capable of decent filmmaking with Lights Out (2016) and, mostly, a few seriously creepy short movies. Let’s hope Creation will make us forget about its predecessor. Cheers!