Myths and thrills create a creepy night terror experience. Slumber – movie review

Everybody has been creeped out at least once by a friend or family member who sleepwalked or sleep-talked during the night, awakening us with a real-life jump-scare creepier than the entire Paranormal Craptivity franchise (definition by my friend Jimmy).

Slumber – an American/British movie that will have its wide release only in 2018 – plays with this primal fear and mixes it with ancient Eastern European myths. Continue reading “Myths and thrills create a creepy night terror experience. Slumber – movie review”

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The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) EXPLAINED.

I’ve been waiting to write this since the moment I got to the end of Oz Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter!

If you haven’t seen the movie and are wondering why I should focus my attention on a motion picture that grossed only $20,435 worldwide, check out my spoiler-free take on the movie, since I’m now about to spoil the hell out of this complex film in the next few paragraphs. Continue reading “The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017) EXPLAINED.”

The Classics of Horror #20 – The Sixth Sense (1999)

Once upon a time, M. Night Shyamalan was the most promising director in Hollywood, not just a meme to make fun of.

Mostly, said reputation came from a masterpiece that blew everybody’s mind in the late 90s: The Sixth Sense. Continue reading “The Classics of Horror #20 – The Sixth Sense (1999)”

1st Halloween Special – horror guilty pleasures

As you might now, I’m very fond of the ‘so bad it’s good’ type of movies. This list, however, will focus on five titles that I consider to be highly entertaining, rather than plain awful ones.

The films I’m talking about can’t be considered good motion pictures on many levels (storyline, characters, production values and so on), but they aren’t pure rubbish either. Other than one, probably.

I hope you’ll like at least some of these titles and find a few mindless, dumb entertainment to celebrate your Halloween with! Continue reading “1st Halloween Special – horror guilty pleasures”

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!

A slow-burn that will make you rethink outbreak films. It comes at night – movie review

A few films have been as controversial as It Comes at Night recently

In the case of Trey Edward Shults’s latest film, though, all the controversy lies in the polarised reactions the movie got upon its release. Something reminiscent of what happened with The Witch (2016), loved by critics and niche audiences; panned and literally hated by the majority of moviegoers.

Contrarily to my usual reviewing pattern, I will give my opinion on the film before even talking about it, with a little premise nonetheless.

If you are in for 90 minutes of challenging, demanding, unconventional plot and execution, check It Comes at Night out. It’s a very good movie which you can’t help but respect for its attempt to an original concept and an execution filled with intriguing imagery and symbolism.

It comes at night 3.jpgHowever, if you like more conventional horror flicks, with tons of scares along the way, maybe some gore and ounces of frightening creatures, stay away from It Comes at Night. You guys would hate it and rant about it to your friends, discouraging them from checking out a movie that might actually be their cup of tea and, therefore, forcing a viewpoint on a film that has to be seen with the right state of mind.

If you belong to the first group, you can proceed with this blog post that might tickle your curiosity; otherwise, read it if you want and I’ll try to explain why I think It Comes at Night is a good (and important) film.

I believe the best way to experience Shults’s flick is going in it completely blind. The lesser you now, the better.

Which is why I won’t describe the plot and I’d suggest you to avoid trailers and any web page telling you what this movie is about.

It-Comes-at-Night 1.pngIt’s just important for you to know that we follow 6 main characters (two families, each one composed by husband, wife and son) who are apparently locked up in a cabin in the woods where they believe they can’t go out at night but only in daytime with a good dose of precautions.

Without a single standout protagonist, the characters in this movie are very much able to carry the plot along and create intriguing relationships between them.

The casting choices are on spot, with Joel Edgerton leading the way in one of the best performances of his career (which is saying something…).

The cinematography is stunning and seems a character by itself, since through it the director is able to convey emotions and tension.

In fact, It Comes at Night is a very suspenseful flick, which plays with your expectations and cleverly reverts the horror clichés we are used to.

Yet, as I previously mentioned, this film has an ongoing symbolism which appears, for example, when a red door is shown on screen representing the passage between life and death.

However, to me the movie never looks too artsy or pretentious. The characters, for example, are extremely realistic as well as their interaction: crude and gritty at its core.

The true horror this mystery movie shows, is the one that lies within every human being when the situation gets desperate: sexual desire, uncertainty, lack of trust in others, family, love… all these feelings are implicitly explored in It Comes at Night.

The ending, which obviously I’m not going to give away, is not fully fledged but matches the rest of the movie. Most viewers will hate it, I personally think it’s okay but could have been better.

it-comes-at-night-trailer 4Yet, in the movie clearly emerges a lack of balance between dream sequences and real events. The horror scenes belong only to the dream sequences, which makes them less impactful and slightly frustrating.

I get their purpose within the dreams, but I still think the movie would have benefited from some more unsettling imagery with the characters awake.

Besides, the other issue I have with the film revolves around the director’s intentions. Specifically, I believe Shults pushed it too hard when he claimed: “a lot of questions are left unanswered intentionally, for a reason and I hope it sticks with you. I hope it doesn’t frustrate”. Although this lack of explanation makes for an anxiety-inducing, on the other hand, it gives the annoying impression of faulty creative flair.

it-comes-at-night 2In conclusion, It Comes at Night is not a film for everyone. Very susceptible to generate frustration and confusion in certain viewers, it is mandatory to go into this movie with the correct approach and a deep interest in cinema. In other words, if you prefer disposable horror flicks, please avoid It Comes at Night and go watch Annabelle: Creation. To be clear, I don’t mean this in a demeaning way, I’m serious when I warn you about this film. You’ve been warned. Cheers!

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

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

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

What’s my opinion on it, then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annabelle (2014) – movie review

Whit Annabelle coming out soon (the release date in the UK is the 11th of August), I decided to make a step back to the first spinoff of this horror franchise linked to The Conjuring universe.

If you previously read some of my older posts, you might have noticed that Annabelle is mentioned quite a few times in them.

Mostly, I used it as a titular example of soulless flick made on a small budget with the only purpose of milking money out of moviegoers’ pockets – which I talked about in-depth in regards to The Conjuring cinematic universe.

Therefore, I hope you’ll sympathise with me for having made the excruciating effort of sitting through this atrocity against humanity… for the second time.

Annabelle tells the absolutely unneeded and uninteresting story of a possessed doll that, after being cursed by a cultist, haunts the house and lives of John and Mia Form, a newly married couple living in California in the 60s/70s (presumably…).

Annabelle 1Mia is pregnant and, due to her insane passion for creepy-ass dolls, fills the room of her upcoming daughter with these hideous puppets. John, despite being short in money, decides to buy her Annabelle which costs him two months’ worth of rent, ignoring its horrendous appearance and the fact that it would scare every kid in the world to death.

When two cultists (a man and his daughter) break into their house to kill the lovely couple for some unexplained reason, they curse the doll which seems to embody either a demon or the vindictive spirit of the woman. Or both. Who cares?

After witnessing weird paranormal phenomena that jeopardise Mia and her new-born daughter (Leah), the wife decides to throw the doll in the bin and move away, which her husband reluctantly agrees on – despite being stereotypically sceptical and for no reasons unaware of what’s happening.

Anyway, they move to a humongous flat, although not having enough money to pay both bills and buy a hideous doll. However, Annabelle comes back due to her superdoll powers and keeps haunting them until a pointless sacrifice saves the family in one of the most disappointing ending I have ever seen.

Directed by John R. Leonetti, who previously made Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and The Butterfly Effect 2 (two of the worst movies ever made), Annabelle is deemed to be awful.

The concept it’s based on is laughable to begin with: another killer-doll movie is as about necessary as one revolving around a board game (knock Ouija door for confirmation).  

Annabelle 2Nevertheless, the execution is even worse: this film feels like an endless stream of exposition scenes, filled with boring dialogue between characters as compelling as a potato.

From time to time, jump-scares are thrown in the mix and they look cheap, unfrightening and, overall, silly. Other than a fairly good one, which makes for 10 seconds of watchable stuff out of 96 minutes.

The rest is just generic: the soundtrack, the cinematography, the editing… all of that is made up in the attempt to create some scary moments that will never come.

Sub-plots are thrown in a sequence and never explored again; characters make a statement and retract it in the very next scene; the husband always has to go to (or stay at) work because the director doesn’t know what to do with him.

Furthermore, in this flick universe, there is no space for other human beings than the characters directly involved in the story: streets are empty in broad daylight, buildings look always uninhabited, shops are deserted.

This is Annabelle guys, a shameless attempt to rip off better films and a soulless money-grabbing train wreck that is about as scary as a Smurfs episode. Don’t watch it, ever!

To conclude, I just want to clarify that I decided to review this movie because, despite all the premises, I’m really curious to see Annabelle: Creation for two main reasons.

Firstly, the director openly despised the first Annabelle as a terrible film. Secondly, he proved himself capable of decent filmmaking with Lights Out (2016) and, mostly, a few seriously creepy short movies. Let’s hope Creation will make us forget about its predecessor. Cheers!

The hunting game we were waiting for. Killing Ground – movie review

Has anyone seen Eden Lake (2008)? It is that British movie starring Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender go on a camping trip by the lake and get assaulted by a group of twisted teenagers who turn their love escape into a terrible nightmare.

Well, Killing Ground, written and directed by Damien Power, is the Australian counterpart of Eden Lake, although better executed and acted than the already very good English film.

Killing-Ground- 3By the clever usage of non-linear storytelling, Killing Ground tells the story of a couple who go to a remote location to find peace and spend a nice weekend away from the civilisation. Soon their expectations will be let down and they’ll find themselves immersed into a mortal hunt-and-pray game where the odds are extremely adverse.

Simultaneously, though, the movie tells another story, which happened before the main one.

Other than the particular technique utilised to tell the events (never left to exposition, instead always for the viewer to figure out), Killing Ground is a straightforward horror thriller which runs for 89 minutes without a single dull moment or a sequence that makes you feel relieved.

Everything but pretentious, this flick is a pure adrenaline ride filled with compelling characters (villains included), drama, action and an overall sense of dread and tension.

The biggest achievement Mr Power reached in this movie consists of the ability to give a new look to something we have seen before tons of times.

The direction is immaculate. The editing, only external interference to the story, perfectly connects the two storylines and is refreshingly clean and subtle. The soundtrack – or I better say lack thereof – is barely noticeable but fully part of the story development.

Yet, the restraint location and limited use of actors makes for compelling characters in Killing Ground. Every single one of them is well-rounded and, pleasantly surprising, none of them is formulaic.

Shot entirely on location, the movie doesn’t use CGI throughout the entire runtime. The practicality behind every special effect cooperates to create a greedy atmosphere, despite a colourful and vivacious cinematography.

Killing-Ground 1I found myself looking in pure delight at the lack of black and white in this film: the good guys are not heroes and the villains (although fairly depicted as sadistic psychopaths) appear normal to the rest of the community and, therefore, to the audience in the scenes where they are dealing with other people.

Unapologetic without being gruesome or needing to show extreme violence on the screen, Killing Ground ends with a blast. The grand finale is, indeed, very fulfilling (something I experienced only with Get Out this year) and profound enough to make you reflect upon it for a while.

Killing ground 2Killing Ground is a film that tells a story we’ve seen tons of time, but it does it including an unconventional form of storytelling and clever twists every here and there, proving that a movie can be (incredibly) good without overturning schemes.

With Killing Ground, Australia proves once again to be a fertile ground (sorry about the pan!) for great horror entertainment. I honestly can’t wait to see what Damien Power will come up with next. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend to watch this film, one of the best I’ve seen the whole year. Cheers!

The hysteria behind her eyes. HEX – novel review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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