TOP 10 laughably bad scenes in 2017 horror movies (so far)

As some of you might now, I’ve written a top 10 spookiest scenes post to celebrate Friday the 13th appropriately.

While recalling the chilling sequences in horror movies I watched this year, I also remembered some of the worst ones. However, with this post I decided to list up the 10 most hilariously awful moments in horror films that came out in 2017. Therefore, I left aside those plain awful or boring scenes, in order to focus on and get some enjoyment from some involuntarily bad bits. I hope you will enjoy!

10 Dance like crazySplit. I was very keen on the latest Shyamalan’s movie in my review. However, upon watching it again, I noticed some elements that didn’t quite work: as such, when Kevin – the villain with split personality – puts up a dance scene in front of the main girl, I laughed out loud. This scene is hilarious, but I’m not sure whether it tries to be or not…

Leatherface 39 Leatherface trying to speakLeatherface. On top of a terribly executed movie, the otherwise rather decent final climax gets ruined by the clumsy, awkward attempt to speak by the titular character whose mouth has been previously sewn shut. As the audience, we are supposed to feel for and be creeped out by him, but the scene is so poorly made that Leatherface looks more like a teenager on MDMA (or like Sylvester Stallone…) rather than the unsettling antihero he is.

8 Chucky minions Cult of Chucky. The 7th instalment of this campy franchise was surprisingly enjoyable, in my opinion. However, when three little possessed dolls with different haircuts surround the weird psychiatrist, I couldn’t help but laugh all the air out of my lungs: they reminded me so much of the minions from the animated Despicable Me franchise.

7 Oh shit, the train! The Bye Bye Man. This January movie is hilariously bad and contains so many WTF?! moments. Also, it has an inexplicable fetish for trains. Thus, when one of the main characters has a vision caused by the titular Bye Bye Man, she runs on a railway and gets run over by a train. A huge, fat, loud train that she didn’t see coming until it was too late: the girl’s face right before she dies is priceless and it seriously made my day!

Raw GIF6 I’m a tasty girlRaw. This one might be hard to sell, because people seem to love this artsy coming-of-age French horror. I hated it, even though I’ll never deny it’s a rather well-made film from a technical standpoint. Anyway, when Justine discovers her cannibal tendencies, she starts to bite herself up while having sex with her roommate. People might find that disturbing, but the way that scene was handled made me chuckle quite a bit.

5 Catfight – Wish UponI hated this factory product, guys. This movie is just plain silly and boring. Fortunately, though, when the lead girl pulls up a slap-fight with a cheerleader in the school cafeteria, the audience can burst out in laughter. Surely, this isn’t what the director tries to achive. But hey, it makes for a ridiculously bad and memorable sequence!

Bye Bye Man 24 Wink wink little starThe Bye Bye Man. This movie makes me laugh so hard that I think it will become one of my guilty pleasures. In the “pinnacle of tension” (the bunny ears are very much needed), one of the guys haunted by the Bye Bye Man winks to a police officer played by Trinity from The Matrix (I’ve no idea what Carrie-Ann Moss is doing in this flick, by the way) that winks back at him. Their surprised reactions cracked me up: it’s the Bye Bye Man who made them wink! Such an evil entity… what is he going to do next? Make them clap hands? I don’t know if I’d have the guts to stand it…

3 CGI spiders are a recipe for disaster The Evil Within. After a 15-year-long making process, The Evil Within came out as one of the most pleasant surprises of 2017. However, a CGI spider crafted with technology that dates back in 2003 pops up on screen in two sequences and it just looks… awful. Laughably awful, that is. Hey, if you’ve seen IT – the 1990 miniseries – you know that this idea never works!

2 Killings by the lake Lake Alice. Oh man, I love this movie! This indie, straight to DVD piece of garbage features some of the worst acting, story and killings I have ever seen. But they are hilarious! Mostly, the bloodless killings that turn this flick into the worst slasher ever made and, in my opinion, an amazing “so bad, it’s great” movie. Seriously, Lake Alice needs to be seen to be believed!

1 “I’ll do the fingering” Alien: Covenant. Perhaps, you saw this one coming. Covenant is not, per se, a terrible movie, but it’s definitely the most disappointing one I have seen in 2017, as a big fan of the Alien franchise. This scene, and the entire sequence, takes itself so seriously but it’s just plain laughable. The “I’ll do the fingering” quote probably marks the most hilarious moment I experienced in a theatre the entire year!

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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 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!

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 #14 – The Thing (1982)

The creature-feature obsession that had ruled the black and white sci-fi horror cinema, stopped almost entirely in the 50s, with audiences overwhelmed by crappy B-movies and tired of being thrown the same story inhabited by paper-thin characters.

A man alone, with a single film, changed everything at the beginning of the 80s. John Carpenter’s The Thing popped out of the blue in the pinnacle of the slasher era, ruled by Michael Myers (created by Carpenter himself) and Jason Voorhees, and blew everyone away.

A straight-up, nostalgic sci-fi film about a shapeshifting alien being hunting down a handful of scientists in Antarctica exploded at the box offices all around the world and broadened the horror genre boundaries.

The Thing 1What many people aren’t aware of is that The Thing isn’t just a 50s sci-fi exploitation; instead, it’s based on John W. Campbell Jr’s novella Who Goes There? (1938) which was more loosely adapted by Howard Hawks and Christian Nyby as the 1951 film The Thing from Another World.

Therefore, Carpenter’s masterpiece is probably the best remake ever made in horror cinema, besides being one of the most compelling and entertaining creature-feature movies ever made.

Needless to say, I love this amazing motion picture.

Firstly, the practical effects are top-notch. This movie came out in 1982 and, if it wasn’t for the characters’ outfit and a few “dated” editing choices, you wouldn’t notice it was made some 35 years ago! Every shot involving “the thing” is a feast for the eye: the practical effects are so brilliantly crafted that look more realistic than 99% of anything else I’ve seen in every other movie. Furthermore, the brilliant editing and colour scheme help to keep the fiction believable, making every action sequence flow seamlessly. Even the peaceful moments look compelling and entertaining, thanks to the gorgeous locations and smart utilisation of lighting.

Secondly, the music is a pure delight for the viewer’s ears. Ennio Morricone, the great composer finally awarded by the academy for Django soundtrack, delivers a constant sense of tension and impending doom that heightens the crucial moments and strengthens the calmer ones.

Finally, the story is compelling and its execution spotless. Contrarily to most of the older or newer creature-feature flicks (for example, The Void), The Thing benefits from a strong narrative and a plot that constantly makes sense. The scientific aspect of the story is therefore intriguing and believable, making for an experience that works as both pure sci-fi and straight-up horror.

The Thing 3If no movie is perfect, The Thing is one of those few exceptions that get ridiculously close to perfection. Reflecting upon the film, for a while I thought the overabundance of characters gave them less reliability and, therefore, the audience couldn’t really care for their faith. However, I recently came to the conclusion that this is a fundamental trait of the movie: a key feature of “the thing” is that it can take the appearance of anybody, which generates doubt and suspicion among the scientists within the facility. Thus, having many characters into play increases the feeling of uncertainty in the audience, as well as the sense of dread among the characters.

Besides, the acting is astounding and make the protagonists compelling even though they don’t have backstories or unique characteristics.

Overall, I think it’s a shame that The Thing doesn’t benefit from the same reputation as other genre-defining films, such as Psycho or The Exorcist. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour and give it a chance right away, because Carpenter’s masterpiece must be part of your horror knowledge!

When a bank robbery with James Franco goes wrong. The Vault – movie review

The Vault is a horror/thriller which revolves around a great and compelling mystery: trying to figure out what the hell James Franco is doing in this movie!

With Stephen King’s IT (review coming – very – soon) hitting theatres and making audiences go crazy, every other horror movie out there is being overlooked and, most probably, will flow under the radars.

Vault 1One of them is The Vault, written and directed by Dan Bush (The Signal, 2007), and starring James Franco and Clifton Collins Jr (Pacific Rim, Westworld, Star Trek). The focus of this horror disguised as a thriller, though, revolves around two estranged sisters – Vee and Leah Dillon, played by Taryn Manning and Francesca Eastwood – that decide to rob a bank in order to help their brother leaving prison.

After finding only £70.000 in the bank safe, the two ‘bad girls’ and their team of outcasts ask a bank employee to give them a way out with more money: Ed Maas (Franco) points them an old vault where they could find all the cash they need. Unfortunately, in the titular vault money is not the only thing the unlucky robbers will find…

Kicking off with a pretty cool opening scene, The Vault seems a straight-up thriller for the first 45 minutes or so, then it turns into a supernatural-driven horror flick. However, the main issues with the film is the very directorial inability to match the two tones. This movie doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be or what direction to go for, resulting in a quite disjointed and convoluted plot.

Besides, between thriller and horror scenes there are dull-witted dialogues that neither develop the characters, nor give viewers something to think about. In other words, they are fillers to make the flick reach the feature length.

Vault 2.jpgYet, the character themselves are mostly annoying and unlikable: only Leah (Eastwood) is worth rooting for, whereas her sister Vee (Manning) is, frankly, unbearable because she screams throughout the entire runtime and looks like she’s on cocaine for the majority of the film.

Also, since there is an overabundance of characters, Franco and Collins Jr are vastly underutilised and can’t shine in a movie which, honestly speaking, would very much need their on-screen charisma.

Again, the ending – and by that, I mean the very last shot – makes no sense whatsoever and seems the usual, lazy way to conclude a horror movie with a final jump-scare when the director or screenwriter run out of ideas.

Nevertheless, The Vault is not entirely worthless. For instance, towards the end and before the silly final sequence, there is a rather clever plot twist which, also, makes sense within the film and gives the audience certain answers they might have asked themselves during the film.

Other than one CGI made shot, everything else has been made through practical – and quite convincing – practical effects. There is some well-made gore thrown in the mix which is entertaining – although most of the time it’s hard to look at because of the damn shaky-cam.

Overall, I’d say The Vault would work better as a straight-up thriller rather than a mixed-genre that combines a crime story with supernatural horror. The good production values and intriguing premise, though, are not enough for me to recommend the film.

Vault featureUnless you are down for a moustached, grumpy James Franco! If that’s the case, go watch The Vault now, otherwise just avoid it. Cheers!

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.

Classics of Horror #10 – Halloween (1978)

John Carpenter’s Halloween is the first modern slasher and, therefore, it inspired every other flick of this sub-genre ever since, including the beloved Friday the 13th and Nightmare franchises.

Halloween 1For horror purists, I know that some previous films could be considered as slasher as well: Psycho (1960) represents a prime example. Nonetheless, Halloween had redefined the sub-genre and made it suitable for mass audiences and many forms of exploitation.

Basically, John Carpenter’s low-budget film represents for the slasher sub-genre what The Blair Witch Project (1999) meant for the found-footage style: it’s been done before by Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, but BWP undeniably gave it an unprecedented popularity.

Halloween 2.jpgHalloween, which is the turning point of my series on The Classics of Horror, tells the simple story of Michael Myers who escapes a psychiatric institution he’s been locked up in 15 years before, in light of the murder of his sister when he was only a child.

The serial killer on a loose comes back to Haddonfield on a Halloween night to satisfy his blood thirst and kill the local teenagers.

As oppose to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), which I didn’t like as much upon second view, Halloween deeply struck me the second time I watched, in order to right this review.

In general, the first film of what would have become a successful franchise based on Michael Myers is just an amazing, unpretentious, entertaining movie.

However, three factors made me fall in love with it.

Firstly, the good characters are extremely compelling. In comparison to the majority of slasher flicks (actually, 99% of the slasher flicks), the three main girls (played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Kyes and P.J. Soles) are well-rounded and feature different, distinguishable traits. Their ways of speaking resemble closely the way teenage girls used to argue with each other in the late 70s, which provides the film with an extra layer of realism.

Halloween 6.jpgYet, Donald Pleasence as Doctor Loomis – the psychiatrist who took care of Myers for 15 years – is simply eye-grabbing. His performance is fully rounded and features a vast range of emotions which make for a compelling character who, basically, carries an entire sub-plot along by himself.

Another prime character in Halloween is the soundtrack: composed by John Carpenter himself, the score is iconic to say the least and it’s able to deliver a subtle sense of angst that never fades away. Personally, I think the sound design alone makes the film worth watching.

Halloween 3.pngFinally, the cinematography is spotless. Every single shot is a feist for the eye and, in my humble opinion, such a high level of gorgeous cinematography has never been reached since in a non-artsy horror film (with the exception of It Follows, 2014, which indeed constantly pays homage to Halloween).

Halloween 4The combination between music, camera-work and photography creates an overall dreadful atmosphere which doesn’t need Michael Myers on screen to give the audience goosebumps. Some shots that frame Myers from behind, while focusing on other characters are just so simply beautiful. At the same time, long sequences composed by single takes give a realistic impression, make you feel like you’re integral part of the Haddonfield community to the point that you could communicate with Laurie, Annie or Linda.

Besides that, Halloween is just an entertaining flick with a few, tiny, plot holes that can be easily overlooked: for instance, after having been in a mental institution for 15 years, Myers escapes and drives a car, something that, realistically, he shouldn’t be able to do.

Halloween 5If I could only change something about the film, it would be Myers’ behaviour in certain scenes. In the first half of the movie, the villain just stares at people from behind bushes, cars, trees and so on, which is not really scary or unsettling in my opinion.

On the other hand, though, I understand that this specific behaviour humanises his character rather than turning him into an indestructible monster – which, eventually, he became in the sequels.

All in all, I think Halloween should on everybody’s must-watch list and, although not really frightening, it well deserves its spot among the classics of the genre. One last suggestion: if you can get the Blu-ray of this film, please do, it will make your viewing experience unforgettable.

An interesting meta-cinema experiment. Cut Shoot Kill – movie review

Cut Shoot Kill is an indie horror/thriller written and directed by Michael Walker who made a name for himself with Chasing Sleep starring Jeff Daniels and in collaboration with Lions Gate.

After failing a big Hollywood career (so far), Walker stepped back and released Cut Shoot Kill with a smaller budget, independent production companies and a cast of unknown.

This movie features an aspiring movie star, Serena (Alexandra Socha), who gets offered a lead role in a horror flick by mysterious director Alabama Chapman (Alex Hurt).

She accepts the offer due to the inspiring passion Alabama shows during the interview and embarks on three weeks of shooting in the North American woods, where neither Internet nor phone signals work.

Cut shoot kill 2Soon enough, Serena realises that the obsession for truth shown by Alabama and his crew might be more dangerous than it seemed.

Although not entirely original, the concept of meta-cinema (making a movie inside a movie that assesses audiences’ expectations) strongly emerges in Cut Shoot Kill.

Yet, contrarily to other films in the past, Walker’s latest flick feels entirely unpretentious. The social commentary is there, but it’s never overwhelming and not in a single scene hides the entertainment value of the film.

Subtly, Cut Shoot Kill asks the same questions to the viewer: What do modern horror audiences want? What point would you get to in order to make a successful film?

This themes are well explored throughout the runtime (97 minutes) and the answers are never given through exposition, instead they are hinted at through dialogues and characters’ motivations/feelings.

Cut Shoot kill 3In regards to the characters, I believe the message of this film would have been delivered in a much more potent way if the acting was better. The performances in Cut Shoot Kill range from excellent (Serena and Alabama) to awfully over-the-top (Serena’s boyfriend and the producer of Alabama’s movie), with everyone else lying in the middle being quite forgettable.

Cut shoot kill 4.jpgRegardless, the atmosphere and tone of the movie are spot-on: as a meta-slasher, Cut Shoot Kill doesn’t over-rely on gore (other than one highly effective scene), but builds up tension through good cinematography, excellent score and an overall sense of threat that surrounds the victims.

Cut shoot kill 4.pngI might be completely wrong, but I also perceived a menacing sexual sub-text to the film, which heightens the level of tension in the scenes where the three girls (Serena and her co-stars in Alabama’s project) are involved.

Besides the acting, my biggest issue with the film revolves around a sub-plot involving the previous Alabama’s female lead, who starred in the 7 short movies the director made before hiring Serena and mysteriously disappeared after the seventh film was shot. I found it rather useless in the overall story and distracting from the main focus of Cut Shoot Kill.

Yet, I see the ending being polarising: some might love it, some might hate it. Personally, I believe the film should have ended with a particular scene which hints to the isolation of Serena (you know what I’m talking about if you saw/will see the movie). However, the actual ending is not terrible and, although a bit convoluted, fulfils the character’s arc of the lead actress.

In conclusion, there is something I can’t quite grasp that holds me back from loving Cut Shoot Kill. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend to watch it if you’re intrigued by its unconventional plot. 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!