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”

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One giant built-up to a clever twist. Lake Bo(re)dom – movie review

It’s not a very smart pun, I know. Obviously, the real title of this Finnish horror thriller is Lake Bodom, a movie that came out in 2016 but had its wide release in 2017.

Regarded as one of the smartest horror films in recent years, Lake Bodom utilises an actual crime case that happened in the location of the same name in 1960, when two youngsters got stabbed to death. Following the investigation, a third 18-year-old boy who was in the tent with the victims was found innocent for lack of evidence.

In consequence, the movie revolves around four high-schoolers (two boys and two girls) who go camping in the same location some 40 years after the murders to find out if the Lake Bodom killer is just a legend or something more real. Continue reading “One giant built-up to a clever twist. Lake Bo(re)dom – movie review”

I JUST SAW… Baskin (Turkey, 2015)

Here we are, starting a new series in which I’ll be taking a look at some random movies that went overlooked or are just plain unknown.

Most of the movies I’ll be watching and talking about are foreign (as in non-American), therefore I hope you don’t mind reading subtitles! Obviously, these are all going to be films that I highly recommend, so check them out if you’re intrigued by what you are going to read. Starting off with…

Baskin 1Baskin (Turkey, 2015, directed by Can Evrenol) revolves around five Turkish police officers who receive an emergency call from a secluded location and go check out what the fuss is all about. On their way, they get into a terrible car accident which, anyway, happens not too far from the mansion they were headed to. When they enter the unsettling mansion, all hell breaks loose (literally).

Continue reading “I JUST SAW… Baskin (Turkey, 2015)”

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Pet Sematary (1989) – 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.

Pet Sematary 1The 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?

Pet Sematary 2.jpgI 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.

Pet Sematary 3Despite 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!

A feature-length Goosebumps episode; only less scary and very uninspired. Wish Upon – movie review.

After Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), Butterfly Effect 2 (2006) and Annabelle (2014), it’s now official: John R. Leonetti is among the worst horror directors ever!

Mind you, I never go into a flick wishing (no pun intended) it’s awful. As a matter of fact, I’m quite excited whenever I watch a film, even when the synopsis sounds laughably bad. Sure, I have my opinions on certain subjects or directors, but I try not to be biased while watching a film. For instance, I’m not the biggest fan of Andy Muschietti, but I can’t deny IT is one of the best horror films of the year and that he made a pretty great job with the material he had to work with.

All of this boring and self-referential intro is to explain that, no matter how hard I tried to find redeeming qualities in Wish Upon, this is a God-awful movie.

Firstly, the plot is taken by an episode of the Goosebumps TV series – Be Careful What You Wish For – which is more entertaining than Leonetti’s movie, despite the TV series campiness and the fact that it was made for children.

Wish Upon 217-year-old Claire (Joey King) is bullied at school, unpopular and unlucky with boys; until her father gives her a Chinese wish box. Claire uses it to wish for a better school life but soon enough discovers that every desire she tells the box requires a blood payment and people around her die inexplicably.

Before going into the analysis of technical flaws, let me just state that the script is highly stupid, almost downright offensive.

Wish Upon 1Claire, the character we are supposed to root for, discovers she has 7 wishes at her disposal and decides to use them to harm school rivals, get the boyfriend of her dreams, gain popularity. Not even once she thinks about, I don’t know, wish for world peace? End of terrorism? Nicolas Cage for President of the World?

Seriously, though, her character has been written so badly and that’s entirely Barbara Marshall’s fault and her dumb script.

Besides a terrible person as the lead and a silly script, Leonetti’s direction of Wish Upon is totally formulaic and aims to naïve horror viewers. For example, I counted the horror tropes (dog sensing things, dark shades moving around, lights out for no reason…) utilised in the movie: twenty-four! Basically, this flick rips off everything that has been done, with better results, in previous movies.

Plus, the soundtrack is mundane at best. It doesn’t match the tone of the movie and seems more suitable for a straight to television rom-com.

Even the colour scheme is generic and uninspired: this film uses a bluish tone throughout, a la The Ring, that should make us feel in danger, while the only feeling I got from this movie was boredom.

Wish Upon 3Also, other than an unintentionally laughable scene (a slap-fight in school between two girls), Wish Upon doesn’t even belong to the ‘so bad, it’s good’ category. Which is something that could have made this movie slightly enjoyable!

As a scary movie, Leonetti’s work fails on every level possible: throughout the entire runtime, there isn’t a single tense moment, a single effective jump-scare. Gore and violence? Forget about it. As a PG13 flick, Wish Upon doesn’t even dare using those techniques.

In conclusion, add the aspects mentioned above with some product placement and a few unimaginative deaths, and you’ll get a soulless, money-grabbing flick with no redeeming quality whatsoever. I feel sorry about being so hard on this movie, but that’s what it deserves. Cheers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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