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!

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The Classics of Horror #11 – Alien (1979)

Upon re-watching Alien for the umpteenth time last night, I love it even more than I remember.

Do you want to know why? Because it almost made me forget about Alien: Covenant

alien-1979-movie-review-ridley-scott-science-fiction-film-xenomorph-john-hurtAll jokes apart, Alien is a masterpiece of horror cinema in space. It tells the story of the crew of a space vessel (the Nostromo) that perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call from an uncharted planet. When one of the crew members is attached by a mysterious, spider-like creature, the others take him back on the ship to check on him and, as you know, all hell breaks loose.

The chest-bursting scene, the fast growth process of the xenomorph, the revelation of Ash being an android, the badassery of Ripley, the design of the creature, the atmosphere on the Nostromo: everything in Alien delivers awesomeness.

You probably already know the stuff I’ve written so far. Therefore, let me explain why I think Alien deserves a spot in a classic of horror list and what I love about it.

Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien paved the way to all the Sci-Fi monster movies that came out within the next 40 years or so from its release. The sense of dread and isolation delivered by this film is something many directors have tried to achieve with mixed results, never reaching the level of Alien nonetheless.

Such atmosphere gradually builds up throughout the movie, but it’s already there when, after the opening credits, the space vessel is shown in its entire, desolated form. The darkness surrounding every single scene helps to keep the viewer on the edge, without the need of loud noises, jump-scares and characters overreacting.

MV5BMjY1NzQ3Mzk3N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM2NTUyMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1495,1000_AL_.jpgIndeed, the crew members and their actions are also what sets this movie apart from endless of imitators: their comradery is palpable since the very first scenes, as well as the internal struggles they have with each other and with the protocols they must follow. As opposed to them, Ash (masterfully played by Ian Holm) looks strangely out of place, being rarely nice to his colleagues. Thus, Ash’s reveal as a synthetic comes unexpected and surprising.

Ah, the good old days when the evil android wasn’t a posh, British asshole with power deliriums!

tumblr_m4qfv49wnW1rs1ef6o1_500Yet, mentioning the characters is impossible to overlook to Ripley. Sigourney Weaver pulls it off in this film, being able to seamlessly switch from one feeling to the other according to the situation. Every time I re-watch the scene in which Ripley tells Parker off, my level of testosterone increases and I felt so pumped I could fight a xenomorph bare-handed!

Okay, that was silly, but you got the point. The character of Ripley was so ahead of his time: a heroine who’s more resourceful than every other man on the ship and transmits charisma every time is on screen. Ridley Scott, thanks for Ellen Ripley!

And thanks for the xenomorphs. It’s a bit sad that, in almost 40 years, none could come up with a creature design better than the one in Alien. Simultaneously, though, this is a clear and undisputable merit of makeup team, cinematographers and director of the movie. Lurking in the dark, waiting for its next victim, the xenomorph is a perfect killing machine that needs no motivation or any further explanation for its existence. Nor did it need an origin story, damn Alien: Covenant!

Yet, Alien is scary. I know, as a horror reviewer I should use this adjective more often: unfortunately, it’s not easy to find something that really frightens the audience.

Alien, though, delivers. In my opinion, it’s a timeless, suspenseful generator of fear and uneasiness.

In all honesty, I don’t know what else to say about it. Upon my 7th (seventh!) view of the film, I still didn’t find any flaw. To me, Alien is technically perfect – yes, the final explosion of the Nostromo at the end looks quite dated, but that’s it.

Alien_1979_Directors_Cut_1080p_Bluray_DTS_x264_VBesides this tiny detail, the movie holds up perfectly since it’s all practical: the Nostromo, the xenomorph, the chest-bursting scene, the decapitation of Ash… they are all made through practical effects that will never ever look old or dated.

Do yourself a favour and watch Alien now if you haven’t seen it yet. Otherwise, if you have, just re-watch it right away and appreciate its greatness.

Everything wrong with Alien: Covenant (spoiler filled)

Have you ever been let down – big time – by, say, a friend who turned out to be a huge disappointment instead of the amazing person you depicted him/her to be?

Well, said friend is Alien: Covenant (2017) for me. I love Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), I find Prometheus (2012) mentally challenging in the best way possible, I like Alien 3 (1992) and I even enjoy Alien vs Predator (2004) as a guilty pleasure.

Naturally, then, my expectations for Alien: Covenant were very high. I so decided to venture beyond the surface of the film to explain why Ridley Scott’s latest movie is a huge disappointment for me.

In order to do that, I will have to include spoilers for both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant – if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want its story ruined, check out my spoiler free review of Alien: Covenant. Also, I decided to focus on the negative elements of this motion pictures, meaning: the movie is not entirely rubbish, but here I’ll talk about everything wrong with it.

For a big fan of the franchise as I am, Alien: Covenant was really painful to (re)watch. Therefore, I have to thank my girlfriend who sat through it with me and endured my sarcastic and frustrated comments during the runtime.

The film opens with David’s (Michael Fassbender) backstory that we get to know through a dialogue between the synthetic and Mr Weyland (Guy Pearce). Although interesting, the scene raises more questions rather than starting to answer those left hanging in Prometheus. On top of that, it seems to set a Prometheus-ish tone that, on the contrary, will be betrayed as soon as the title appears on screen.

Soon enough, Alien: Covenant turns into an Alien movie, rather than a continuation of Prometheus. I’ll explain later why this is a bad thing.

Everything wrong 1.jpgWe are now on the Covenant, a spaceship directed to an uninhabited planet they hope to colonise. Out of 15 crew members, including Walter (another humanoid played by Fassbender as well), there are three married couples. This is the first sign of lazy writing.

No risky mission in the universe will allow couples to travel together… unless their inclusion has the sole purpose of convey emotions that, otherwise, would be lacking due to little acting skills of most of the cast members and non-existent chemistry on screen.

Basically, the first act of the movie is a big build-up in which nothing unseen happens and the characters appear one-dimensional: Walter-Fassbender and the dialogue between Daniels and the captain are the only enjoyable moments.

As you know if you saw the film or read my previous Alien: Covenant review, most of the crew lands on a habitable planet from which they received a suspicious signal by an unknown source.

Once they arrive on the planet, we are struck by incredible landscapes backed up by spotless cinematography and gorgeous visual effects.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere of awe is ruined in 0.2 seconds by a crew member who approaches a field saying: “Believe me, this is wheat, I know wheat”. No shit Sherlock! This brief sequence sums up both the disposability of the characters and the lazy storytelling featured in Covenant.

Finally, something relevant happens: two of the crew members are infected by an airborne unknown virus – which, who saw Prometheus, would recognise as the lethal weapon transported by the Engineers on their spacecraft.

However, the ‘infection sequences’ are highly predictable and reminiscent of those B-movies in which a teenager goes to take a leak and gets butchered by the killer. In fact, all the ‘thrilling moments’ are foreseeable in Covenant and, therefore, not as effective as they could have been.

Then, two monstrous creatures burst from the back and chest of our unlucky infected characters and furiously attack the rest of the crew and kill some of them in the goriest way possible. As I said in my previous review, these sequences would have been awesome if only horrendous Dutch angles, poor lighting, nauseating camera-work wouldn’t be there.

Oh, and it also would have been nice to have characters who don’t act like complete assholes!

Everything wrong 2Furthermore, the Neomorphs (these creatures born from the airborne virus that impregnates humans) feature very poor CGI: in both Alien and Aliens, the Xenomorphs are entirely practical and, therefore, frightening and timeless. On the contrary, the monsters in Covenant look already fake and, soon enough, will look dated.

The attack sequences, very fast-paced, are followed by a caped saviour who rescue the remaining crew members and take them to a ‘safe place’ (i.e. the now uninhabited city of the Engineers). The mysterious rescuer reveals himself as David, who landed on the planet with Doc Elizabeth Shaw 10 years before.

Now, the pace gets, once again, slow, showing how pacing and matching of tones represent one of the biggest issues of the film.

Everything wrong 4David carries the plot along and, while providing a very interesting backstory to his character, gives the audience some involuntarily laughable scenes (“look at me, I’ll do the fingering”) and spoon feeds the viewers, filling the gaps between Prometheus and Covenant.

David-Fassbender explains to Walter-Fassbender that the Engineers’ civilisation was, accidentally, destroyed by David himself who, unwillingly, dropped tons on lethal weapons on them and crashed the spaceship in the process, killing doctor Shaw in the crash.

Everything wrong 3.jpgIt’s very obvious, as it will be discovered a few scenes later, that David wanted to kill the Engineers in one of his delusions of grandeur. He, also, killed Elizabeth Shaw by infecting her with the virus in order to give birth to a new species. It’s clear, at this point, that David’s motivations revolve around his desire to be creator instead of mere creature.

However, the mass massacre of the Engineers seems clearly motivated by Ridley Scott’s decision not to continue the Prometheus universe expansion. In this way, we will probably never get answers to the questions cleverly raised in the 2012 film.

Anyhow, the story progresses with the Neomorph getting killed by the captain of the crew who, then, is guided by David to a Facehuggers nest where, obviously, he gets impregnated and gives birth to the first Xenomorph.

Wait a second, weren’t there two Neomorph? What happened to the second one? The film doesn’t bother to give us any answer, again. This is a humongous plot hole which I don’t know how can be overlooked by critics and viewers.

Also, at the end of Prometheus, a Xenomorph bursts out of the chest of the last remaining Engineer. However, in this case the creature is the product of a mixture of Engineer’s and big octopus-like monster’s DNA. How the hell two different DNA combinations (octopus + Engineer and human + Facehugger) can give birth to the same creature?

This goes beyond the suspension of disbelief. Mind you, I’m not criticising the genetic/scientific aspect of it. Instead, I’m pointing at the lack of coherence within the Alien universe.

everything wrong 5Back to the story: the first Xenomorph bursts out of the captain’s chest and David is before him, putting his hands up. What’s the reaction of the laughable CGI creature? It imitates David and puts its hands up as well! That’s too much to take. I can’t believe Ridley Scott turned the most iconic monster in cinema history (his monster) into a freaking pet!

Everything wrong 6.jpgObviously, the Xenomorph has an exponential growth, gets to the adult stage quickly and starts to hunt down the rest of the crew. Only Tennessee (McBride) and Daniels (clear replacement for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley) survive, after the two Xenomorphs (oh yeah, there is another one because another Facehugger previously impregnated another disposable character) kill the rest of the crew.

Meanwhile, there is a face-off between David-Fassbender and Walter-Fassbender, which ends with the evil David in disguise replacing the loyal Walter on the spaceship.

Before I conclude, I want to pinpoint two major issues that bothered me ever since I watched Covenant for the first time.

Firstly, David wants to create the perfect living creature and, finally, become a creator. However, in the original Alien movies, the Xenomorphs weren’t created by anyone in particular. Their society resembled a hive, with a queen giving birth to eggs filled with Facehuggers who stayed dormant until they got in contact with other living beings. Covenant ignores all of that and originates a parallel, less impactful Alien universe.

Everything wrong 7Secondly, why would David not be fully satisfied with the Neomorphs and want to improve upon them? In the original three movies (I refuse to consider Resurrection part of the franchise), the Xenomorphs are perfect killing machines. In Covenant, instead, the Neomorphs look faster, scarier and, above all, their system of reproduction is airborne, meaning they’re easier to create and spread.

All in all, Alien: Covenant is not an awful movie per se. However, is the worst film possible for the Alien franchise: it confuses the storyline, tones down the terror deriving from the Xenomorphs, tries unsuccessfully to recreate the same atmosphere of better Alien films and ignores the existence of Prometheus. Simply put, Covenant is a bloody mess.

If you are wondering my personal ranking for the Alien franchise, there you go:

 

Alien
Aliens
Prometheus
Alien 3
Alien vs Predator (yes, I’m serious)
Alien: Covenant 

Alien: Resurrection
Alien vs Predator: Requiem

Another found-footage Sci-Fi on alien abductions. Phoenix Forgotten – movie review

On March, 13th 1997 lights of varying descriptions were spotted over Phoenix, Nevada and Sonora, Mexico.

The phenomenon has been described by local and national American media as a “mass UFO sighting”, overhyping the fantasies of conspiracy theories and tickling the curiosity of many.

As a natural consequence, books have been written by alleged UFO experts and movies have been made to exploit one of the few inexplicable happenings that triggered Sci-Fi fans.

Among those low-quality and low-budget films, Phoenix Forgotten was meant to be the exception. Produced by the master of Sci-Fi, Ridley Scott – and directed by novice filmmaker Justin Barber – this is the latest attempt to a successful found-footage movie.

Instead, it might just as well be buried in anonymity alongside with tons of other mocumentaries of the same stock.

What started promising in the first 10-15 minutes became mediocre and already-seen as the movie progressed.

The footage looks, indeed, very realistic, being accompanied by glitches and lacking background music. Although the background voice takes the viewer slightly out of the experience, this part of Phoenix Forgotten is highly entertaining because creates interest and hype around the story.

Phoenix Forgotten 2When three teenagers (Josh, Ashley and Marc) disappear a few days after the lights were seen in the sky, town folk and local police go desperately in search of them. However, after some government agency and the army seemingly bury the evidences and push for all the story to be forgotten, the search stops all of the sudden.

A few years later, Josh’s sister starts to dig into the story and finds a camera with a miraculously intact tape, which is shown in the last 20-25 minutes of the film.

Phoenix.ForgottenThe actual footage, which constitutes the third act of the film, is – in my opinion – the most climactic, intriguing and even startling part of Phoenix Forgotten. Reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project (1999), the climax of the movie is well executed because it hints to things without showing them.

Unfortunately, the rest of the flick – from the first 10-15 minutes up to the last 20-25 – is only a boring, dragging stream of bureaucratic discussions, pointless dialogues and endless series of fillers who serve no purpose other than increase the pending display of the footage.

Thus, the character development is extremely disappointing. While I was watching Phoenix Forgotten I kept questioning myself whether this kind of movies need strong characters or if the characterisation would weaken the meaning of mocumentary itself.

I might be wrong, but personally I lose interest when a flick doesn’t feature compelling characters.

Phoenix Forgotten 1In the case of Phoenix Forgotten, the acting didn’t help. Formulaic, generic and bland, the only cast member who stands out is Chelsea Lopez (who portraits a terrified Ashley towards the end).

Phoenix Forgotten is not a bad movie – it’s not a good one either though. It’s just boring, and I struggle to find another adjective to describe it.

I’d say: check it out if you’re into the all alien abduction sub-genre or if you’re particularly obsessed by the lights over Phoenix. If you don’t fit this description, do yourself a favour and shy away from it. Cheers!

A homage to the great 80’s mysteries and much more – Stranger Things – TV series review

I’m sorry if I tag along after the hype a bit too late, but I just got the chance (finally!) to watch the 8 episodes of one of the most successful TV series in recent years: Stranger Things (2016).

Directed by the Duffer twin brothers (Matt and Rose), this series revolves around a boy who goes missing and his geeky friends who are looking for him in a small town in Indiana, United States.

At the same time, the local police – led by sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) – and the families of the three main boys are involved in the search. To complicate the situation, a mysterious (and peculiar) girl appears out of the blue, chased by an ambiguous governmental organisation which is, also, on the pursuit for a creepy creature that’s terrorising the town.

All these stories and sub-plots bump into each other progressively, in a top-notch eighties mystery/horror exploitation.

I personally have little familiarity with the Duffer Brothers – I haven’t seen their feature-length horror movie Hidden (2015) and I can’t quite remember the two episodes of Wayward Pines (2015).

Nonetheless, their work deserves nothing but congratulations in regards to Stranger Things, where they were able to perfectly recreate the 80’s vibe of some classics, while paying homage to greats such as Carpenter, Lucas and King.

John Carpenter’s themes are particularly overwhelming throughout the episodes: from the soundtrack to the photography, to the locations and the colours, the director of The Thing (1982) is a constant presence in the series.

Whereas Stephen King’s influence is tangible specifically in regards to Stand by Me (1986), film directed by Rob Reiner which tells a coming-of-age story that both inspires and makes you cry.

Indeed, the combination between genres is one of the strengths of Stranger Things: Sci-Fi, horror, coming-of-age drama are immaculately blended together. In addition, a subtle humour refreshes every single episode, making for a nice change of tone where needed.

A series, though, is only as good as its character.

Fortunately, the cast is really impressive and each single character really compelling. Other than Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), who plays too much of a generic, evil villain to be fully reliable.

However, the other actors put together first-class performances: Wynona Ryder as Joyce Byers, mom of the vanished kid (Willy), is great in the role, likewise her son in the movie Jonathan (convincingly portrayed by Charlie Heaton) and the sheriff (whose charisma is tangible).

The real standouts, though, are the kids. Considering how hard it’s to find good child-actors, the Duffer Brothers made jackpot.

Stranger things 1The four friends – Willy (Noah Schnapp), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and, above all, Michael (Finn Wolfhard) – are well-rounded characters and can communicate a wide range of emotions. In addition, Eleven – the mysterious girl played by Millie Bobby Brown – is a complexed, intriguing protagonist who, despite not being particularly talkative (to use an euphemism…), through gestures and facial expressions, gets under your skin in the most positive way possible.

I could write about Stranger Things for longer but I prefer not to go too much into plot points and details, in case any of you hasn’t seen it yet. Because, the less you know about it, the better.

Just give it a try, please. Cheers!

Seriously, Ridley Scott? Alien: Covenant – movie review

Alien: Covenant is Ridley Scott’s attempt to reinvigorate the Alien franchise after the somewhat cold reactions received by Prometheus (2012) and some stinkers from the past (Alien: Resurrection, AVP), unworthily labelled as Alien movies.

Alien CovenantIn the film, we follow the crew of the Covenant – a spaceship on the way to Origae-6, a remote planet, to colonise it with some two-thousand colonists and a thousand embryos on-board. After something goes terribly wrong, the ship catches a human message from another unknown planet and, therefore, the crew decides to land there and see what’s going on.

Needless to say, the crew happens to be the target of creatures interested in nothing but ripping them apart in all manner of devastatingly inventive new ways.

After hanging over five years for answers that Prometheus set for us, Alien: Covenant only provides the viewers with some of the posers.

Instead, the result of the latest Scott’s movie appears an amalgamation between Alien and Prometheus, a mixed-bag that doesn’t satisfy neither the fans of the first nor the supporters of the latter.

Ali CovenantHaving high expectations for this film, I was very let down by it. In all honesty, Covenant is a convoluted, bloated mess that attempts to recreate the most successful chunks of both the first two Alien movies and Prometheus, failing, though, almost on every single level.

In all fairness, though, visuals and acting are the saving grace of the movie.

The cinematography is gorgeous and, once again, Ridley Scott proves to be a master-class Sci-fi director in terms of visual effects. Some of the shots are breath-taking and eye-grabbing, that’s undeniable.

Plus, the acting is very good on everyone’s part. Although Katherine Waterston as Daniels is decent, Danny McBride in an unprecedented role for him and Michael Fassbender – who carries the plot along throughout the entire two hours or so of runtime – stand out and are worth praising over the other performances.

However, these two elements only can’t save the movie from being a big let-down.

My main disappointment with Alien: Covenant revolves around the tone. The Prometheus-like vibe never matches with the Alien-like tone, providing a very contrasting feeling throughout the whole film.

Yet, the camera-work is sometimes frustrating: certain shots seem directly extracted from a videogame and there are scenes where it’s impossible to understand what’s going on because of the use of the infamous shaky-cam. Which I was really surprised Scott got away with, since it’s a technique such a good director should shy away from.

aliencovenantIn terms of camera-work, I was also disappointed by the fact that some gruesome and bloody sequences were made hard to look at, whereas would have been great to appreciate their effectiveness in this type of film.

Again, the CGI doesn’t blend with the practical effects and shots on location. It looks already fake and dated even in comparison with the astounding special effects of the first Alien (1979)! Ridley Scott, where did you go?

All in all, I would have preferred to see a straight-up sequel to Prometheus – which, although not perfect by any means, is an entertaining, challenging piece of cinema – rather than a bloated flick where direction and production company aimed to please the mass audience’s requests for more xenomorphs and brutal killings.

In conclusion, give Covenant a chance if you have to, but I personally wouldn’t recommend to watch this film, especially to those who love the first two movies and hope to see their beloved franchise to be reinvigorated. Cheers!

One of the better horror anthologies in recent times. The Dark Tapes – movie review

The Dark Tapes is a horror anthology split in three chapters, each one of them bond to the other by a fourth story that intercuts between them, also establishing an overall frame.

First time feature filmmakers Michael McQuown and Vincent J. Guastini directed and co-produced the flick – a genre-defying, found-footage combination of supernatural elements, Sci-Fi and thriller.

You can imagine my reaction when I sat down to watch a found-footage anthology, since I’m not the biggest fan of anthologies nor of found-footage.

Nevertheless, The Dark Tapes highly surprised me, being one of the genuinely scariest movies I’ve seen in 2017. If not the scariest.

Above all, I wasn’t frightened by jump-scares – which are almost non-existent in the film. Instead, I was sincerely creeped out by the dreadful colours, the dark and threatening atmosphere and the amazing sounds’ design. Yet, the performances, provided by a cast of unknown actors, range from a decent to a very convincing level, the pinacols being the first and the third chapters.

The.Dark_.Tapes_.2016-fanart10The first story (The Hunters and The Hunted), the first tape if you will, is the one I’ve been more impressed by. It tells the story of a young couple that moves to a new house which might eventually turn out to be haunted. Very reminiscent of Paranormal Activity (which is one of the reasons why I strongly dislike found-footage films), this segment concentrates all the tension within the short runtime of 25 minutes, demonstrating that a short film is where this kind of plots belongs. Despite an excellent build-up, the aspect I loved about it the most is the twist, a very clever one, which spoofs and enriches at the same time the whole paranormal activity horror sub-genre.

Dark TapesCam Girls instead tells the story of two lesbian lovers, that make a living performing sexual activities online (for paying customers). Their online chats are filled with terrifying glitches that hint – in a quite evident way – to something dark and devilish. Although the overall atmosphere and the lack of music make for an unnerving experience, the mediocre acting and the obvious ending scale this segment down, making it the less powerful in the entire anthology, in my opinion.

118147Amanda’s Revenge is the following tale that revolves around a young student drugged and raped in a party who, then, becomes obsessed with stopping persistent unwanted paranormal intruders. Enriched by strong symbolism and carried along by a resourceful female character, this story about alien abductions benefitted from good cast choices, believable turns of events and dreadful look and feel. The ‘ending-ending’ is quite cliché and meaningless, but it doesn’t ruin the segment either.

The.Dark_.Tapes_.2016-fanart32The frame which interlinks these three stories together is represented by To Catch a Demon, where we follow three paranormal investigators that take their investigations into an uncharted new dangerous territory. Not particularly original nor unseen before, this tape is still able to scare me shitless, due to its highly earie score, slumber and threatening tone and, above all, terrifying creature realised entirely with practical effects.

Overall, I found The Dark Tapes surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining. On IMDb I came across this comment which sums up my opinion on the movie: “For an indie film made on just a $65,000 budget though, I think [the result] is mostly impressive”. I also believe this flick shows the talent of McQuown who wrote the script, directed two segments, served as film’s editor and cinematographer all by himself.

Strongly recommended guys, don’t let this film fly under your radars. Cheers!

Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #1 Event Horizon

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget  and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not  just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.

images-1

Event Horizon (1997) is the only decent movie directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, the man behind the Resident Evil movies. No worries, Event Horizon is not even a bit close the Resident Evil crappy films.

The plot is rather simple, a space team is sent to the boundaries of the universe in a far future (2047… gotta love that!) to figure out what happened to the Event Horizon, a spaceship built with a breaking ground technology that has disappeared for a while in the unknown space. When they found it, unsettlingly deserted and apparently abandoned by the crew without any trace, shit starts to happen.

What is special about this film? First of all, the environment. Everything happens inside the spaceship, masterly crafted and designed by Joseph Bennet who, without utilizing the CGI, crates a close, claustrophobic and so unsettling atmosphere. The practical effects are well done in the kinky details and they drag the audience into the movie without requiring a strong suspension of disbelief. The CGI, though, is not entirely absent and, unfortunately, does not hold up very well, especially in the few open-space scenes.

Another strong feature of the movie is represented by the characters. Laurence Fishburne (captain Miller), Sam Neill (Doctor William Weir) and Jason Isaacs (D.J.) shine among the others in Event Horizon. They are good actors, whose characters are well defined so that the viewer cares about them throughout the entire brief runtime of 92 minutes. The downside is the presence of many supporting roles who are there only to be killed in atrocious way without any in-depth development. Still, it is a lot of fun and goosebumps.

The final twist, which I am not going to give away, is mind-blowing and it elevates the movie on another level. The performance of Sam Neill – who was big in the 90s (ehm ehm… Jurassic Park) – is absolutely fantastic towards the ending and it is also backed up masterfully by a Laurence Fishburne Morpheus-like performance. The only complaint I have in regards to the twist is that it is too abrupt. You do not see it coming at all, which is not bad per se, but it makes the audience wonder ‘why and how’ without giving them a proper answer.

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Part of my love to this movie is due to nostalgia, I cannot deny that. I have seen this film 9 times now and I remember it as the first thing I have seen on screen that literally freak the shit out of me (hey, I was 7 years old when I first saw Event Horizon). From a detached point of view, it is pretty clear that the movie was not extremely original – it exploits a bit too much from the Alien franchise.

Still, I cannot find a decent explanation why the critiques panned Event Horizon.

All in all, although it has flaws and weaknesses, I consider Event Horizon as one of the best Sci-Fi horror movies of the last 20 years, capable of influencing movie characters and successful video games. Not to be undermined, this movie would probably keep scaring you in the same way it did in the 90s. Cheers.

 

 

Why the hell is Cloverfield considered as an Horror movie?

10 Cloverfield Lane (USA, 2016) – Don’t get mad too early. Here we’re talking about the somewhat-sequel of the famous found footage called Cloverfield (not that bad though, despite it’s shot in the overrated found footage style), a sequel that’s completely different from the first of the franchise.

First of all, 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t shot in found footage style (thanks God!) and apparently (again, I won’t spoiler the plot or the ending) it belongs to a different kind of sub-genre than Cloverfield.  10 Cloverfield Lane, starring John GoodmanMary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher, Jr, is a psychological-claustrophobic thriller rather than a Sci-fi horror film.

The budget for this movie is much higher than that used for other similar films and I’d say that it was worth it making a charge of 15 million bucks: mostly because it served to hire a great cast, especially John Goodman who did great in the shoes of the controversial figure of Howard. Great cast performances, claustrophobic atmosphere and characters slowly slipping into madness are the ingredients perfectly cooked together to create the delicious  recipe called 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Unfortunately, the final result is a dish difficult to digest. In fact, the last fifteen-twenty minutes of the movie ruined (or, at least, weakened) what would have been an awesome movie. Without spoiler too much, I’d say that in its last scenes 10 Cloverfield Lane turns into another genre leaving the viewer puzzled and disappointed. I’m not pointing out that the ending sucks. It doesn’t; it’s still pretty badass. But in a certain way, those last minutes don’t fit the rest of the movie as they could have been.

Let’s just say that  the real charm of the film lay in the invisible threat that, once revealed, no longer seems so inevitable and scary.