Bunnyman: Vengeance, The Limehouse Golem and Resurrection – movie reviews in short

The end is coming! No, don’t worry, I’m only talking about the end of 2017, which is quickly approaching and… there are still so many horror flicks to check out and review!

Therefore, I decided to give you my brief take on three films that were recently released and might seem appealing to you. Bear in mind, these titles are all non-American (but only for Resurrection you will need to read subtitles), which is what has driven me to watch them in the first place. Continue reading “Bunnyman: Vengeance, The Limehouse Golem and Resurrection – movie reviews in short”

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Birthdays have never been so dreadfully terrible. Happy Death Day – movie review

HDD 1Theresa “Tree” Gelbman wakes up hangover for her birthday, in the room of a classmate she spent the night with, and, after being the biggest bitch on earth throughout the day, she’s lured into a tunnel where she is murdered by a hooded figure wearing a mask of the campus mascot. Continue reading “Birthdays have never been so dreadfully terrible. Happy Death Day – movie review”

The Classics of Horror #18 – Scream (1996)

In the mid-90s, slasher flicks started to lose impact in a market oversaturated with 7th or 8th installation of franchises soaked in 80s vibe. Yes, they kept giving mass audiences some mindless entertainment, but they completely and utterly gave up on originality and unconventional plots and characters.

Thus, Wes Craven, who contributed to the slasher era with A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), decided to spoof the entire sub-genre and its tropes by making Scream, a film so clever that it works both as a parody of slashers and an intense ride nonetheless.

Scream 1When the quiet town of Woodsboro is shocked by a mysterious killer of teenagers known as Ghostface, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) – who’s dealing with post-traumatic syndrome due to the rape and murder of her mother one year prior – and her friends try to figure out who the killer is with the help of a nosey journalist and an incompetent police deputy.

Craven’s umpteenth success shows the constant usage of horror tropes and clichés to criticise their formulaic presence in horror cinema, particularly in the slasher sub-genre. References to Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises are all over the place in this smart meta-slasher.

However, it’s John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) that plays a primary role, with Craven and Kevin Williamson (Scream screenwriter) paying homage to the movie that started it all. Scream even utilises part of the Halloween iconic soundtrack to raise tension in certain sequences and winks to the audience in others.

As he’s done successfully with Nightmare (1984), Wes Craven is able to create a context in which the suspension of disbelief is unnecessary: as opposed to the Jason Voorhees’ movies – which you really can’t overthink about in order to enjoy – or even the first Halloween – great film, but engulfed with unbelievable physics – in Scream universe everything is believable and makes sense within the story. Upon fourth viewing, I still couldn’t find any plot hole! Which is something that never occurs in slasher movies, to be honest.

Scream 2.jpgBesides, Scream benefits from a perfectly balanced combination between “whodunit” mystery and black comedy – obviously, the reveal of Ghostface’s identity toward the end looks silly (as it is in most of the slasher flicks), but the movie gives the audience hints throughout so that the final surprise doesn’t come entirely unexpected. And, above all, makes sense. Craven never lies to its audience in Scream, so that if you paid attention to the story development you’d know why the ending unfolded in that specific way.

As per comedy, the director shows once again his black humour in this film: Craven, to my knowledge, was the first horror director to include comic relief in one of his earliest flicks (The Last House on the Left, 1972) and, although in that case it didn’t quite work, in Scream these aspects blend perfectly with the crime/mystery one.

Scream 3Besides, Scream benefits from a perfectly spot-on casting: there isn’t a standout actor among them, but they all fit perfectly the roles they’ve been assigned with. Mostly, though, the characters they portray are incredibly amusing and entertaining. Sidney, deputy Dewey (David Arquette), unscrupulous news reporter Gale Weather (Courtney Cox), Billy and Stu (Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard) are compelling, entertaining and quotable. Plus, some fun cameos (such as Drew Barrymore, Live Schreiber, Henry Winkler and, of course, Craven himself) make for an extra layer of enjoyment in the movie.

Yet, Wes Craven’s film deserves to be among the horror classics for two main reason: firstly, it made impossible to overlook tiresome clichés in horror flicks ever since Scream came out. In other words, this film deconstructed formulas that made our beloved genre boring and conventional, to the point of being considered almost dead following an influx of direct-to-video titles and numerous sequels to established horror franchises of the 1970s and 1980s.

Which is my second point: thanks to Craven’s masterpiece the horror genre has reborn from its ashes and found new ways to tell scary stories. Surely, the late 90s and early 00s have been quite stingy in terms of good horror films (at least around Hollywood), but the blast of the 2010s is, more or less, indirectly tied to Scream.

All in all, I love the movie and I can only appreciate how much Craven has done for the horror genre. Although Scream is probably less immune to the aging process than other genre classics, it has a special place in my heart and every horror fan should recognise praise that.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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 moral is: never trust your colleagues. The Belko Experiment – movie review

When your script revolves around 80 employees locked up into their office building waiting to kill or be killed, the final product could either be extremely satisfying or go terribly wrong.

The Belko Experiment is the exception to the rule.

Directed by Greg McLean – who made a name for himself with the excellent Wolf Creek (2005) but also made some stinkers in the recent past – and written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2), this film tells a quite straightforward story.

Belko experiment 2In an office building nearby Bogota (Colombia), 80 employees – from the maintenance to the bosses – are the target of a sadistic game where, in order to survive, they must kill each other, instructed by a mysterious voice which gives them orders and rules to follow.

By far, the best aspect of The Belko Experiment revolves around the employees’ reactions. Each and every one of them gives a different response to the panic, ranging from disbelief to pure shock, to madness, to abandoning every decent human behaviour.

Also, despite the short runtime of only 88 minutes, the film takes its time to introduce the main characters, which are well-rounded within a few sequences: Mike Milch (John Gallagher Jr.), Barry (Tony Goldwyn) and Wendell (John Christopher McGinley) are particularly striking in their respective roles.

belko-experiment.w710.h473.jpgNevertheless, in the cast choices there is also a lot of wasted potential. Michael Rooker, for example, seems to be in the movie purely to make a favour to Gunn – the duo worked together in both the Guardian of the Galaxy films.

Yet, with such a simplistic plot, the show stealer should have been the killings. Rated R and marked as very violent, The Belko Experiment holds back on every scene that might have been too brutal, instead.

On the contrary, when on camera, the practical effects are well-done and effective, although never original or unseen in other flicks before.

belko-experiment-image-john-c-mcginleyHowever, the most disappointing part of the movie is the grand finale. Nonsense, dumb and lazy. I wouldn’t know how to describe it otherwise. The main reason being that who made the movie wanted to set up a sequel, regardless how stupid the ending of the film was.

Overall, though, you can give it a watch, switch your brain off and enjoy a very quick film that has nothing to offer apart from decent entertainment. It could have been way worse, but even far better than it actually is. Instead, The Belko Experiment is a forgettable horror flick that, for sure, doesn’t deserve a sequel. Let’s hope they don’t make one. Cheers!