Fierce and pure body horror in the desolation of urban life. Let Her Out – movie review

We stay in Canada, where my last blog post followed the footsteps of a very unusual vampire, this time to take a look at a much more conventional movie.

In fact, body horror – the sub-genre Let Her Out belongs to – has had its peak during the late 90s/early 00s, with many flicks exploiting the wearing away, rotting and destruction of human flesh caused by some sort of inner issue.

Let Her Out, written and directed by Cody Calahan (Antisocial and Antisocial 2), kicks off, quite in-your-face, with a prostitute tirelessly banging a stream of clients, until some stranger breaks into her motel room and rapes her. As a result, she gets pregnant and decides to kill herself and the baby by stubbing her own womb with scissors.

Let Her Out 223 years down the line, Helen (Alana LeVierge) begins to have awful visions and hallucinations that cause the girl to have black holes in her memory and to forget where she’s been and what she’s done for long periods of time. Lately, it’s discovered that Helen’s mom was the prostitute at the beginning of the movie – she was pregnant with twins and, when she tried to kill them, she succeeded only partially, since one of the foetuses attached to the other in order to survive.

Continue reading “Fierce and pure body horror in the desolation of urban life. Let Her Out – movie review”

Advertisements

Something to admire (and be scared of) for the next 27 years. IT – movie review

Starting off as the most anticipated movie of 2017 among horror fans, Stephen King’s IT is now the highest grossing horror film in cinema history (at least in the US), only some two weeks after it hit the American theatres.

It 2017 1The movie about a bunch of kids – the appropriately named “losers” – who fight a multidimensional demon, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, has also aimed to give a more faithful adaptation to the 1986 King’s novella of the same name, whilst improving upon the 1990 TV mini-series starring the great Tim Curry.

Although the director Andy Muschietti (Mama, 2013) has claimed to aim for a great adaptation of the source material, ignoring the mini-series, most of the viewers compare the two visual products. And so did I (guilty!).

It 2017 2This umpteenth King’s adaptation has gained mostly praises and consent among both moviegoers and professional critics. Unfortunately, though, there are those who claim the 1990 mini-series is way better than the 2017 film, mostly for the sake of going against the grain.

Let me get this straight, then: 2017 IT is a truly good film, with high entertaining and acting values and a great atmosphere.

Before delving into that, I’d like to give my opinion on two of the main questions audiences were (are) concerned about going into this film. Does the movie top the 1990 mini-series? And, more importantly, is Bill Skarsgård Pennywise better than the memorable one portrayed by Curry?

IT 2017 5Firstly, it’s important to bear in mind that the 1990 mini-series was divided in two parts, the first of which focused more on the kids (as in the 2017 movie) and their struggle with the dancing clown, whereas the second half was dedicated to their adulthood and their final attempt to kill Pennywise off. The first half is quite enjoyable and well-made, unlike the second which is mostly convoluted, unintentionally silly and, here I state it, boring. Muschietti’s film picks up on the first part of the story and, in my opinion, makes it better in many regards: higher production values, more consistency in the pace and better scary scenes. Although I didn’t find the movie overly scary, I can imagine many viewers being at least startled by IT. Particularly, a long sequence in a disused house and the opening scene are truly effective and set the tone for the rest of the movie.

Furthermore, the characters are great and the casting choices on spot. The kids are brilliant and their chemistry seems natural and never forced. Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher, The Book of Henry, 2017) is mesmerising and captured my full attention every time he was on screen. Richie, played by Finn Wolfhard (Mike from Stranger Things), delivers great one-liners and is the perfect comic relief in the movie. Despite having less screen time at their disposal, even the other five members of the losers club fit perfectly into the story and each one of them brings something interesting to the table.

Obviously, though, the make or break deal in terms of characters (and success of the movie in general) is Pennywise, played by Skarsgård. He was awesome!

IT 2017 3I wouldn’t go thus far to state he was better than Tim Curry, but he definitely nailed the role and gave it an original interpretation. Curry’s Pennywise is unsettlingly friendly, whereas Skarsgård’s is genuinely terrifying and off-putting. Which one is better is for the viewer to decide; I, personally, love them both but believe that Curry is the saving grace of the mini-series, whereas Skarsgård’s character blends in the 2017 movie seamlessly and delivers on another level in comparison to his predecessor. However, it’s fair to say that Skarsgård’s performance is backed up by great CGI and editing effects that improved his movements and facial expressions – stuff that Curry couldn’t rely on.

Other than these two big questions (controversies, if you will), the aspects I appreciate the most about IT are its respect of the source material and the overall look and feel of the movie. The 2017 adaptation has a darker vibe, reinforced by some gore effects, that immerse you in the experience while, simultaneously, puts you in front of the kids’ everyday struggles and fears. I also believe that the level of entertainment is heightened by some comedic moments and bits of dialogue that make the movie well-rounded and enjoyable in diverse regards.

Seeing the first movie Andy Muschietti came out with, I was afraid IT would have relied too heavily on CGI. Sure, the computer generated special effects are all over the place, but they blend in with the practical effects and makeup perfectly, to the point that most of them don’t even look like CGI.

In regards to the flaws of the film, I could think only about a couple of issues. First of all, the group of teenagers who bully the “losers” throughout the all movie are simply unbearable: more than annoying bullies, they are borderline psychopaths. Every scene they are in seems so ridiculously over-the-top and they become distractive quite soon into the film.

Also, the horrifying vision of one of the kids looks extremely silly and, every time it was on screen, it took me out of the film.

IT 2017 4Finally, I’d have liked to see in the movie all those dark bits from King’s novella that have been cut out because they’re too gruesome. In all honestly, I believe this movie would have benefitted from a much darker tone in regards to the human side. In other words, it would have been cool to see the horrendous shit the kids are going through in the book. Nevertheless, what we got is good enough.

In conclusion, I think IT is a horror film everybody who loves the genre should watch in the more unbiased way possible. For example, I usually prefer unconventional horror films (artsy, symbolic and slow-paced ones), but I can’t deny that the 2017 King’s adaptation is a fun ride and does everything the target audience asks for! Strongly recommended. Cheers!

The Classics of Horror #5 – Psycho (1960)

As I previously mentioned in my Rosemary’s Baby review, I have a ‘special’ chapter of The Classics of Horror dedicated to Psycho.

My girlfriend and I, in fact, went to watch the screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece at Grosvenor Park – a quiet oasis in the middle of the chaotic Londoner nightlife on a summer Friday night.

The location itself – which my girlfriend will talk about shortly on her blog – was worth the price of the ticket (22£ each, including a glass of fine wine) and created a mystical atmosphere that added to the quality of the film.

If you’re interested in Nomad Cinema initiatives and want to catch a glimpse of our day at the outdoor screening, check their website and enjoy the photo gallery at the end of this post.

In regards to Psycho itself, I thought to write about what makes it so iconic and inspirational to these days, since its plot, cinematography and general features have been discussed quite a lot within the last… well, 57 years!

Considered as the first slasher flick ever – although the origins of this sub-genre may find their roots back in Maurice Tourneur’s The Lunatics (1912) and countless giallo novels in the late 1880s – Psycho is much more than that.

Its influence spread through various cinema genres, such as psychological thriller, mystery and, of course, horror. Putting aside various attempts on imitations of sorts and a shot-by-shot shameless – and soulless – remake (Psycho, 1998), Hitchcock’s movie has inspired, deliberately or unconsciously, an endless number of directors and filmmakers.

Needless to say, the iconic stabbing in the shower has had tons of reenactments in probably half of the modern horror movies. That specific sequence has been received as shocking and gut-wrenching for the 60s audience but, in all fairness, experiencing it before a big screen and surrounded by an excellent sound system… well, it’s striking enough even today.

Again, the sudden change of main character – typical Hitchcock’s signature – has pushed brilliant directors to try unconventional story-telling patterns.

As if atmosphere, cinematography and music (damn, that score!) weren’t enough, the abrupt switch from one protagonist to the other puts the viewer in an uneasy condition, where the audience feels abandoned within a film universe where there is no one left to rely on.

However, what keeps me – and, I guess, all the cinema lovers – going back to Psycho and re-watch it any time with the same attitude is the character of Norman Bates (masterfully portrayed by Anthony Perkins, in the role that made him immortal). First great horror villain, Bates’ personality and psychology are compelling and captivating to these days. His character, despite the psychiatrist’s exposition scene towards the end of the film, is still a mystery for viewers and critics.

Even though the direction of Psycho is nearly immaculate, in my opinion the success of the movie – as well as its effectiveness – massively rely on Norman’s bony shoulders. Bates is an unsolvable enigma, portrayed in a various range of emotions that make him more and more unpredictable as the movie progresses. He’s also such a quotable villain, whose statements will remain impressed in people’s memories, similarly to Darth Vader’s and Heath Ledger’s Joker’s.

No antagonist in slasher flicks history has ever reached such a complexed and all-rounded characterisation. The invincibility of Myers and Voorhees, the sarcasm of Krueger, the cruelty of Leatherface, the intelligence of Vernon, the pure evil of Pinehead can’t rival with the ‘regular madness’ of Norman Bates.

Hitchcock, similarly to a few directors in cinema history, had also a strong faith in audience’s intelligence and pleasure in challenging it. There aren’t many films, in cinema history, that feature nearly no exposition as Psycho did. Here, the story-telling develops through the characters’ actions and the actions, whereas the dialogues serve as creation of compelling protagonists.

Nonetheless, there is a huge exposition scene towards the end of Psycho, which makes it a bit less timeless than it could have been, although it doesn’t affect the perfection of the film itself.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend this film. If you can, try to find a cinema nearby where they show old classics, so that you can enjoy Psycho to its finest. Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milliken: I don’t know how to do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miller: That’s pure genius!

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

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

1 HOUR AND 12 MINUTES LATER

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

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

 

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

One of the best dark fairy tales in recent years. Coraline – movie review

Coraline (2009) is a stop-motion movie written, directed and produced by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993).

I came across this little animated film thanks to my girlfriend, who suggested me to watch it. I so decided to expand my attention to the animated movies with horror elements and, after a quick search, I got intrigued by the screenplay, the directorial standpoint and, mostly, the plot.

cora8We follow Coraline Jones, who moves with her family to a tumbledown apartment in the Pink Palace complex, in Oregon. Coraline’s neighbourhood includes the circus acrobat Mr. Bobinsky, the soothsayers Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, the quirky Wyborn “Wybie” Lovat, who is the grandson of the landlady, Mrs. Lovat. Coraline also encounters a black cat, simply known as the Cat. Neglected by her workaholic parents, Coraline decides to explore the apartment and finds out a secret, small passage which brings to a parallel universe, where everything looks like her reality and, contemporarily, completely different from it. In fact, the Other Mother and Other Father, who inhabit this world alongside the other Pink Palace’s residents, have buttons instead of eyes and behave in a very kind way, although there are shades of creepiness and duplicity in their behaviour…

Coraline, progressively engrossed in this new reality, where everything she has always dreamt of is becoming true, will discover – also thanks to Cat’s precious help – that there is a terrible secret behind the Other World.

As I wrote in the title, this movie is a dark fairy tale. However, don’t let the expression ‘fairy tale’ deceive you. The atmosphere, the cinematography and the stop-motion style of storytelling are unsettling independently from your age.

Coraline is a well-crafted movie, suitable for everyone – from kids to adults – which can go under your skin and has nothing to envy from the better-known The Nightmare Before Christmas.

imagesEU57ED3BAs a very mature animated film, this movie should be praised for its character development – especially in regards to Coraline herself – and tone. Indeed, there are trail of obscurity and angst within the magic Other World, whereas the reality is depicted with dark and slumber colours, but has spurts of happiness and room for hope in it.

Yet, from a technical standpoint, the editing, the soundtrack and the facial expressions drawn on the characters’ faces are admirable.

Even though this movie came out in 2009 and grossed over 120-million dollars (!), I suppose not anyone has seen it so that I will avoid to give away the ending, which in all honesty somewhat reminded me of It (1990) grand finale. In a good, less disappointing way though.

In conclusion, if you look for an unconventional experience, somewhat reminiscing of Alice in Wonderland, which mixes creepy elements with more profound themes and morals, Coraline might be a great time for you. Cheers!