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.

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

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

Once upon a time, there were a Demon, a Vampire and a Skinwalker… The Monster Project – movie review

It seems like the beginning of a twisted fairy tale, instead that’s the premise The Monster Project is based on.

Combine this simple (although a bit childish) premise with some found-footage style, isolated location, a solar eclipse and you basically know what film you will get. Sounds lame, right?

Monster Project 1If you ask me, this doesn’t look promising even in the slightest. Fortunately, in this case, what you have on paper doesn’t turn into reality in the execution, because The Project Monster is a very entertaining flick.

We follow aspiring filmmaker Bryan (Toby Hemingway, the only familiar face in the movie) who assembles a crew of misfits to film a documentary with real-life monsters: specifically, a demon, a vampire and a Skinwalker.

This movie runs for almost 100 minutes and, as soon as the action kicks off (around 40 minutes into the film), it becomes fast-paced and non-stop entertainment, with one impactful jump-scare after the other. Besides the ending, which has a silly plot twist I don’t really care for, The Monster Project is a constant adrenaline rush, a sort of The Blair Witch Project (1999) on steroids.

If you are into this kind of movies, I suggest to check this one out as soon as possible; just don’t expect anything more than that, okay?

Obviously, though, I wouldn’t call this a good movie. This time around, I am going to explain the main issues with the movie by figuring out a fictional, alternative version of what we got. An alternative cut, if you will.

Monster Project 2.jpgFirst of all, the ‘HorrorWorld&Reviews cut’ would be 70 minutes long: no characters’ introduction or formulaic backstory, the viewer would be dragged into the action straight away. In fact, the first 30 minutes or so of The Monster Project seem to be there just to make the flick get to the feature length. Also, every time this movie comes back to the characters it loses impact. In my fictional cut, all those elements would disappear.

Monster Project 3.pngSecondly, I would elongate the interviews with the monsters, which are the most original and enthralling part of this flick. Mostly Demon and Vampire (the Skinwalker not so much) are scary and intriguing and I would have liked to see a deeper exploration of their persona, which is what I would include in the ‘HorrorWorld&Reviews cut’.

Finally, I would film The Monster Project through a more traditional third-person narrative. The found-footage style is tiresome and has used up its impact in horror cinema, in my opinion. The main reason being it’s supposed to show the audience real and truthful events through the eye of a camera; however, in The Monster Project the viewer is bombarded with professional soundtrack (where does it come from?), awkward angles (why filming yourself kissing a girl?) and perfect audio recording (even when a freaking demon eats you alive).

The point is that a movie makes much more sense within its story and its ‘universe’ when it’s not filmed in found-footage fashion, because it doesn’t need to explain how this or that has been recorded. Therefore, my cut would rely on traditional filmmaking techniques and shy away from every form of found-footage.

A quick recap: I’d keep all the good stuff included in The Monster Project and make the segments about the monsters’ interview longer; I’d get rid of any attempt to character development; I’d film the movie in third-person and probably make the ending a bit less over-the-top and silly. What do you think? Would you watch it?

While we wait for Hollywood to hire my, as I said before you can still enjoy The Monster Project for what it is and you’ll probably end up having some mindless entertainment, filled with scary bits and extremely effective jump-scares, as long as you don’t overthink about it for more than two seconds. Otherwise, you’d realise that nothing makes sense. Cheers!

 

Thanks to DreadCentral for the images!

TOP 10 spookiest scenes in 2017 horror films (so far)

Hey guys, happy Friday the 13th!

Last year, to make a Friday the 13th special, I wrote a reflection upon the Jason Voorhees movies formula. I don’t really like that post anymore, thus I decided to swap tone this time around.

As a result, I came up with a list of the top 10 most frightening scenes that we’ve seen in 2017 horror movies. Unfortunately, I’m not easily scared by films, but these sequences were kind of impactful. Just to let you know, I didn’t take into consideration the ‘unsettling’ or ‘disturbing’ moments, otherwise I should have had to make a top-50 list…

10 She’s staring at you!Get Out. Chris, the lead character, is investigating on some creepy mystery revolving around his fiancé’s parents. As the good photographer he is, Chris picks up the camera to check on the family black maid when… boom! He frames her scarily staring back at him with empty eyes. This is a very impactful jump-scare that benefitted from the unsettling atmosphere created throughout the movie.

9 Jump-scare under the stairAnnabelle: Creation. Even though I’m not too keen on this sequel, when the cute Linda wonders around the creepy mansion the movie is set in, a loud noise in the dark makes the audience jump on their seats. The secret behind this well-executed jump-scare lies in its timing: Sandberg, the director, anticipated the moment and, therefore, the effect came unexpected and effective.

Dark Tapes8 Demon first apparition The Dark Tapes. This surprisingly good horror anthology finds a highly enthralling way to link four stories together: a fifth tale in which something is going downhill pretty fast for a bunch of paranormal investigators. The tension, built before the first segment started, turns the apparition of a hideous demon into a true nightmare when the storyline of the investigators is picked up again.

7 Rule #1: basements are not safe Cut Shoot Kill. This meta-slasher works perfectly as a psychological thriller, with no need for graphic sequences. That’s why, when the female lead ventures her way through a creepy basement, the discovery of a mutilated and tortured crew member (who, by the way, is still alive) gets under your skin and makes you startle quite a bit.

Killing-Ground- 36 She’s still alive! Killing Ground. Lately, Aussie movies are knocking it out of the park and this hunting game chiller is no exception. As a young couple camping by a lake discovers the remaining of a butchered family, the boyfriend nearly gets a stroke (and we did as well!) when he finds out a woman is still alive (barely…).

5 Rape attempt A Cure for Wellness. I love this movie, despite its last 20 minutes or so being completely and utterly absurd. However, towards the end Verbinski’s film betrays its tone and makes room for a rather scary scene that nobody saw coming, instead of keeping up with the mysterious and unsettling vibe developed throughout. I could have done without this sudden change of tone, but said sequence remains quite effective.

4 Pennywise and GeorgieIT. The opening scene sets the tone for you. Although this highly anticipated King’s adaptation isn’t properly scary, when the audience is introduced to Pennywise, the clown’s subtle creepiness makes us prepare for the worst, but his violent and gruesome assault to the little Georgie is something not easy to be forgotten.

EyesofMyMother_Trailer2.jpg3 Killer close-upThe Eyes of my Mother. Nicolas Pesce’s debut is a chiller that sticks with you for a long time. Awesome movie, if you ask me. One that doesn’t rely on tiresome horror tropes or conventional storytelling: however, when shit hits the fan, a nightmares-inducing close-up makes the viewer scream and, most importantly, the audience will constantly be thinking about the killer’s insane facial expression. Great stuff!

2 Krypt Creeper Gerald’s Game. Everything about the latest Mike Flanagan’s film is unsettling as hell. However, a specific character is, arguably, pure nightmare material: its abrupt, clear apparition on camera gives the audience a jump-scare for the ages, within a movie that otherwise refuses to rely on any horror cliché.

Evil-Within-6201 This would scare the devil The Evil Within. Unconventional to its core, this film utilises both horror tropes and original ways to frighten the audience. In a fully climactic grand finale, the movie ends with a bloodcurdling sequence in which one of they main characters attends a freak show. Out of the blue, a terrifying womanly creature appears on stage: the practical effects used to give it life are so well done that’s hard not to think it’s real. Which is why The Evil Within takes the cake as the film featuring the spookiest scene in 2017… so far!

Cheers!

The horror in one person’s memories and fears. Gerald’s Game – movie review

It happened to me four times that a horror movie grabbed and kept me on the edge of my seat from the opening credit scene till the end. Upon viewing Gerald’s Game twice, back-to-back, it’s now five times!

Directed by Mike Flanagan and released by Netflix, this film is the latest adaptation of a novel by Stephen King. One of the less appealing novels of his, that is. At least, that’s what I understood by talking to people and gathering a handful of information, since I haven’t read the 1992 book.

Thus, the best compliment I can make to Mike Flanagan and his latest film is that it made me want to read the novel straight away!

Gerald's Game 1Let’s take a step back, though. What’s Gerald’s Game about? Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) go for a weekend away to try and save their marriage and sex life. On a lake house, they cut themselves off the world and, upon trying some good, old extreme sex, Gerald suffers from a heart attack and dies instantaneously.

Jessie, handcuffed to the bed in consequence of the couple sex attempt, has now to find a way out of the house to call for help or survive long enough for somebody to come rescue her.

All the while, anxiety and terror kick off, obviously, and she must deal with phantoms from the past, psychological flaws and various issues connected to her life and certain things that happened along the way.

Simple set-up, confined location, only two actors (mainly one, though) to carry the plot along and a novel that had to be stretched out to make a feature-length film. What could go wrong? The answer is: everything!

However, Mike Flanagan is the next big thing in horror cinema, in my opinion, therefore everything works spotlessly. I don’t want to jinx it to him, but this guy is great! After the surprisingly good Oculus (2014) and Hush (2015) and the even more surprising Ouija 2: Origins of Evil (2016), Flanagan knocks it out of the park again with this chiller.

Gerald’s Game benefits from fantastic direction and seamless editing (both by Flanagan), that – alongside the lack of soundtrack for the most part of the film – creates a dreadful, highly uncomforting atmosphere from beginning to end.

The thing with Gerald’s Game is that it’s a psychologically brutal experience, one that gets under your skin and sticks with you for a long time (at least, that’s how I perceive it). Right when I thought the movie couldn’t get any more eerie, half way through it takes an even darker route when it delves into the memories of Jessie.

In certain ways, Gerald’s Game reminded me of another great King’s adaptation that came out in the early 90s, featuring an isolated location and only two main characters (can anyone guess what is it? I will review it for the next chapter of my Classics of Horror series).

Gerald's Game 3All of that can work only if the acting is on par. Carla Gugino, who I wasn’t a big fan of, has the 99% of the screen time: she’s the focus of the story, the device to carry the plot on, a constant presence for the viewer to cope with. And she is fantastic!

Honestly, I don’t care too much about the Academy, but Gugino being nominated for best female lead would be pure cinematic justice! I haven’t seen a better performance in any of the horror movies that came out in 2017 – including Bill Skarsgård, James McAvoy and Kika Magalhães (The Eyes of my Mother).

Especially, considering she had almost only her facial expressions to work with, Gugino does a mesmerising job in portraying fears, doubts, uncertainty of her character, Jessie.

Gerald's Game 4Bruce Greenwood’s performance is also not to be overlooked, mostly for the physicality he gave to his character. Nevertheless, Carla Gugino is by far the show-stealer in the film.

Talking about characters, I can’t forget to mention a peculiar presence (on and off screen), portrayed by Carel Struycken – any fan of the Adam’s Family here? – who courageously brought on screen his Acromegaly disease and made it part of the story. He’s great as well in Gerald’s Game.

If you got to this point of my review, you might think this movie is “just” a psychological thriller. Don’t you worry: there’s also quite some effective and off-putting gore and one, extremely well executed, jump-scare that got me really bad!

A quick recap: Gerald’s Game is, to its core, a slumber and dark exploration of demons from the past, personal fragilities and fear of an impending doom. Yet, Flanagan does a brilliant job at giving hints that would lead a mature viewer to question certain characters in the movie. It’s filled with great performances and has an enthralling female lead, a truly Oscar-worthy one, who delivers the director’s ideas and novel message in a very potent way.

Before I conclude, I must say that the ending might be polarising. From what I understood, it is pretty faithful to the source material, but I found it a too sudden change of tone in comparison to the rest of the movie. Even though it feels a bit detached from the rest of the film, I loved the message and subtext in it, which emerges stronger upon second view. Gerald’s Game is a must-watch, guys, don’t miss it out! Cheers!

Oh, by the way, Gerald’s Game is officially my third favourite King’s horror adaptation of all time!

The Classics of Horror #15 – A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Being the intelligent filmmaker he was, in the early 80s Wes Craven decided to get out of the hole he dug himself in with his early exploitation flicks. Great quality exploitation, though, with The Last House on the Left (1972) being a genre-defining, twisted flick and The Hills Have Eyes (1977) being a fun, extreme ride.

As a consequence, A Nightmare on Elm Street hit theatres in 1984, challenging a market filled with slasher flicks and dominated by the Halloween and Friday the 13th movies. The result was one of the most loved movies by horror fans in cinema history, other than a unique take on the sub-genre.

Kicking off in medias res (in the midst of things), without any character’s introduction, Was Craven film sets itself apart from any other slasher back in the 80s.

Nightmare 1The plot follows four teenagers who are having recurring, similar nightmares about a disfigured man who wears a shabby hat and a glove made of knives. They soon discover than what happens in their dreams has a repercussion on reality and Freddy Krueger – one of the most iconic villains in cinema history – is not just a figment of their imagination.

Freddy (memorably portrayed by Robert Englund) is the show-stealer in this movie that went on creating a long-lasting franchise and an endless series of remakes and reboots. Unlike Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, Krueger utilises a more psychological approach to hunt his victims down: with creepy sense of humour he winds them up and confuses their reality and dreams. He makes them terrorised, sleepless and weak; thus, more vulnerable.

The concept behind A Nightmare on Elm Street is what’s truly scary about the film: you can escape Myers and Voorhees, as long as you don’t cross path with them, but you can’t refuse to sleep and run away from your subconscious, your dreams.

Although many fans consider A Nightmare on Elm Street an entertaining movie (which, in fact, it is), the idea it’s based on it’s genuinely frightening and the backstory of Freddy (a child molester and killer, who was burnt alive by the families of his victims) make for a great horror, driven by a fantastic antihero.

Nightmare 3Yet, Craven is amazing at executing the concept, by melting reality and dreams from beginning to end. Because of that, the grand finale of Nightmare is one of the most satisfying in cinema history (in my opinion), because it gives the viewer food for thought and doesn’t betray the rest of the movie. Something modern horrors do a lot more than they should…

Nightmare 2In clever contrast to the dream-like vibe that permeates Craven’s masterpiece, the characters (among which there’s a young, but always charming Johnny Depp) are extremely relatable and feel like real people: similarly to Halloween (1978), dialogues and actions of the protagonists are believable. The best compliment I can make to the cast is that they don’t feel like actors.

Again, the parents of the main guys are aware of the things that are happening in their community and, to different extents, participate actively to the story, as opposed to being completely irrelevant or absent (which happened in most of the slashers back in the day).

As per flows, I’d say that the police reaction to the assaults towards the end of the film is a bit laughable – worst police squad ever! However, this doesn’t detract from the high-quality value of this flick.

Nightmare 4If you haven’t seen A Nightmare on Elm Street yet, this is the moment to check it out: besides all the features mentioned above, this film contains the right amount of jump-scares (a couple of them startled me even upon fourth viewing!), blood (a lot for the 80s standards) and comic relief, which make for a viewing experience that should please modern mainstream audiences as well.

“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you”! Thus, watch the film and be prepared: you never know what you might dream about tonight!

Never attempt to americanise Japanese horror flicks. Temple – movie review

I must confess I’m not a big fan of Asian horror films, with a few standout exceptions.

Unfortunately, I don’t like their pacing and acting. I guess mostly I can’t understand Asian culture in this type of movies. Therefore, I was quite intrigued when I heard about Temple, a Japanese supernatural horror written and directed by American filmmakers.

I thought it would have been a combination between Asian gore and violence and American characters and storytelling. Well, I was terribly wrong.

Temple tells the story of three Yankee college students who go on holiday in Japan. The plot is told in retrospect by one of the guys who has been hospitalised after something horrendous happened to him and his friends.

Temple 1Our three tourists are, in fact, looking for less mainstream Japanese environment and attractions. Thus, they come across an old journal which revolves around a cursed temple in the mountains and, obviously, they decide to pay it a visit.

Despite an interesting premise – exploration of hidden Japan, isolation in an ancient temple, cultural differences between countries – this film falls flat in every regard.

Mainly, everything is extremely cliché and predictable and Temple turns into an American film located in Japan, as opposed to the cross-cultured, anxiety-inducing movie it could have been.

The screenplay by Simon Barrett is paper-thin and the execution orchestrated by his brother/director Michael is poor and lacking creativity.

Temple is an hour long build-up – only interrupted by two crowd-pleasing jump-scares – that leads up to 15 minutes in which something actually happens.

However, said final beat is overly confusing and bloated that nothing makes sense at the end. In terms of proper ending, Temple has four (!!) different conclusions, all of them put in the movie as if the director didn’t know which one to go for.

Perhaps, ten years down the line, somebody will come up with a director’s cut of Temple, providing us with a definite finale. Not that it matters anyway, because this flick is awful.

Temple 3.jpgBesides plot and direction, this movie features formulaic, one dimensional characters; terrible CGI (who had the ‘brilliant’ idea to utilise computer generated special effects in a low-budget, limited theatrical release horror flick?); horrendous acting; lack of scares and tension.

In my opinion, the only redeeming quality consists of the production values, particularly the cinematography that looks nice.

‘To each their own’ is an overly used saying in regards to cinema, and most of the time I believe you can’t deny the greatness of a film (or its awfulness, in the opposite case), even though it might not be your cup of tea.

However, this saying has its right to be when it comes to Asian horror films. Although I usually don’t get the hype for them, I now believe they should remain what they are and caution should be taken when attempting to mix them with American stereotypes and standards. Otherwise you would end up dealing with films like Temple.

For instance, The Grudge (2004) and Shutter (2008) are good examples of Asian horrors translated for Western audiences and combining elements of two different cultures – although I prefer their original, Asian versions.

Temple 2.jpgThey succeeded because they respected the source material and added Western elements to it without being invasive. In the case of Temple, instead, the story and its characters are dumbed down for Western viewers. As a result, both Asian and American/European audiences would dismiss it as rubbish!

Needless to say, don’t watch Temple: it’s 78 minutes of your life nobody will give you back. Cheers!

The Dark Avengers recruit another member. Annabelle: Creation – movie review

After watching Annabelle (2014) I had little anticipation for this prequel that fits in The Conjuring universe and revolves around a possessed doll.

However, the direction by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, 2016) and, mostly, an astounding 69% on RottenTomatoes, got me curious and slightly less negative about Annabelle: Creation.

What’s my opinion on it, then?

First, the plot: a group of orphan girls move to the house of Samuel Mullins and his wife, Esther, who, 12 years prior, have lost their beloved daughter Annabelle – killed in a hit and run accident.

Annabelle Creation 2When one of the girls, Janice, a young orphan who suffers from polio, sneaks into a locked room, she finds a creepy doll, unwittingly releasing the demon who begins to terrorise the girls, with a special interest in Janice.

The film is set in the 50s, in an isolated house a few miles away from a small Americana town. Compared to the first Annabelle film, Creation smartly chooses a location and an environment highly suitable for a haunted story.

Furthermore, Sandberg had the clever idea to untie its movie from the awful Annabelle, going for a prequel that guaranteed him more freedom rather than continuing with the ridiculous storyline of the 2014 flick.

Annabelle Creation 1Although driven by young actors, the performances in Creation are compelling overall: Talitha Bateman (Janice) and her best friend Linda (well portrayed by Lulu Wilson) are amazing in their roles. Yet, Sandberg decides to switch the lead between the two girls, making for a fresh storytelling in an otherwise formulaic horror flick.

Don’t worry, though, if you’re looking for the same, comforting bad acting that characterises the majority of horror flicks: Anthony LaPaglia (Samuel Mullins) drags himself around with the same facial expression he had while he was looking for missing people in 160 episodes of Without a Trace.

Besides some excellent performance, nice locations and good camera-work, Annabelle: Creation is as dull as Anthony LaPaglia in his role.

Without spoiling anything, this film doesn’t even have a plot twist: it’s predictable, the jump-scares are obvious (only one, in a staircase scene, got me) and the characters do what you expect them to.

Annabelle Creation 3Yet, Creation tries too hard to fit within The Conjuring universe and, simultaneously, to recreate Insidious (2010). The demon’s victims are all female (alike in The Conjuring), the jump-scares come from loud noises and hideous faces (Insidious), the prevalent colours are different shades of grey (The Conjuring) and the demon is the spit image of Lipstick-Face from Insidious.

The doll is just thrown in the mix, because, let’s be frank, the production company wants to fill up The Conjuring universe with spin-offs about the evil spirits that featured in the two Conjuring movie.

There is even a hint to the Nun in a scene of Creation. I expect Warner Brothers to come up with a Dark Avengers movie in a few years, featuring Annabelle, The Nun and The Crooked Man!

In conclusion, Annabelle: Creation is a massive improvement upon Annabelle. Although even a feature-length film about a dog pooping in the streets would be a better movie than Annabelle.

At the same time, though, Creation falls into all the stereotypical horror clichés we’ve seen tons of times before. It’s an enjoyable film based on a silly premise and unimaginative storytelling that, at the end, leaves you with nothing more than one hour and fifty minutes of mindless entertainment. 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!

The hysteria behind her eyes. HEX – novel review

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are having a face-to-face on the national television: 2012 election for the White House is approaching and American people’s major concerns revolve around politics, economy, Obama care…

In Black Spring, a few miles down the road from New York, alongside the Hudson, Tyler Grant – son of Steve and Jocelyn – is making his way on YouTube as a vlogger. Not one of those who show off their uninteresting lives 24/7, though. He is a journalist-in-the-making, who wants to make the word a better place through his investigations and sharp, unapologetic statements filled with young-adult idealism.

However, Tyler has little interest toward the American election, since his main focus is “bringing Black Spring out of the Dark Ages” and showing that Katherine van Wyler, the Black Rock Witch with sewn-shut eyes and mouth who’s been haunting the town since the 17th century, cannot make the town folks live like barbarian any longer.

The young idealist must act in the dark, away from the indiscrete eyes of Black Spring committee and HEX – the security squad that follows ancient laws and applies corporal punishments for those who don’t obey to them, no matter how the rest of America is civilised and advanced.

Nonetheless, the dangers for Tyler Grant also come from some of his friends who took the concept of “opening the eyes of the town” way too far, deciding the set up a private, gruesome and cruel revenge against the Black Rock Witch.

The consequences of their actions will be deadly lethal not just for them, but for the entire citizenry of Black Spring.

HEX (2016) is the brilliant English debut of Dutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt, who wrote a ‘primitive version’ of the book back in 2013, for the Dutch audience.

His new version of the story, set in the United States – within a very different society – perfectly captures the American spirit in its bright spots and shadows.

HEX featureThis book succeeds on many levels, primarily in terms of character development. HEX tells the story of an entire community, giving all the main characters compelling motivations and strong personalities. When you read the book, you feel part of Black Spring and there’s nothing more refreshing than being dragged and immersed into a story like this.

Black Spring is, itself, a major character and massive source of horror. Although Katherine is a constant, dreadful presence in the book – the Judgment Day will come when she’ll open her eyes, rumours in town say – the citizens are catalyst of terror and hideous actions.

Thus, the story is interesting because, besides Heuvelt’s enormous writing skills, everything is blurry and the boundaries of good and evil merge often, as it happens in human nature.

In perfect Stephen King’s style, the author utilises a paranormal entity as Katherine to describe the every-day-horror that lies underneath the surface of modern societies.

That’s the most striking part of the story and moral of HEX, in my opinion. This book enhances the consequences of fear and mass hysteria: so that Katherine could as well be a symbol for everything that scares a community to the point it loses humanity and brotherhood values.

Katherine is the object of a propaganda that turns civilised people in bloodthirsty barbarians who are apt to flog teenagers who disobeyed anachronistic codes and offer human sacrifices.

As per issues with the novel, I believe there’s one storyline which did not need to be there. The Delarosa are a recently married couple who move to Black Spring and witness the appearance of Katherine: they are utilised by the author as a device to carry the story along and insert a long expository dialogue which gives the witch a backstory that could have been provided in a much subtler way throughout the pages.

Yet, HEX being a horror novel, the scary beats – those that would be translated to jump-scares in a film – are procrastinated by the insertion of descriptive moments that only make the tension shy away.

Also, the ending (the last few pages) is quite confusing and left open to interpretation. Although I don’t usually despise this technique and the message is still delivered clearly, many storylines are left hanging and that may cause a bit of disappointment.

Nevertheless, HEX is one of the best horror/mystery novels I have read in years. Suitable for any kind of reader (+16, I’d say), Heuvelt’s book is a breath of fresh air for the genre and I’m looking forward to reading his next work.

Title: HEX
Author: Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Publisher: Hodder&Stoughton
Year: 2016
Pages: 384
Price: £8,99
Vote: 3,5/5