Office rage breaks loose and it’s loads of fun! Mayhem – movie review

Whoever has had any kind of experience in an office job would know the feeling of being the unhumanised part of a soulless corporation.

Luckily, as an employee of Sky Sports Italia, I don’t get that sensation, but I both experienced it first hand in previous jobs and heard constantly about it from friends and family. Continue reading “Office rage breaks loose and it’s loads of fun! Mayhem – movie review”

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Once upon a time, there were a Demon, a Vampire and a Skinwalker… The Monster Project – movie review

It seems like the beginning of a twisted fairy tale, instead that’s the premise The Monster Project is based on.

Combine this simple (although a bit childish) premise with some found-footage style, isolated location, a solar eclipse and you basically know what film you will get. Sounds lame, right?

Monster Project 1If you ask me, this doesn’t look promising even in the slightest. Fortunately, in this case, what you have on paper doesn’t turn into reality in the execution, because The Project Monster is a very entertaining flick.

We follow aspiring filmmaker Bryan (Toby Hemingway, the only familiar face in the movie) who assembles a crew of misfits to film a documentary with real-life monsters: specifically, a demon, a vampire and a Skinwalker.

This movie runs for almost 100 minutes and, as soon as the action kicks off (around 40 minutes into the film), it becomes fast-paced and non-stop entertainment, with one impactful jump-scare after the other. Besides the ending, which has a silly plot twist I don’t really care for, The Monster Project is a constant adrenaline rush, a sort of The Blair Witch Project (1999) on steroids.

If you are into this kind of movies, I suggest to check this one out as soon as possible; just don’t expect anything more than that, okay?

Obviously, though, I wouldn’t call this a good movie. This time around, I am going to explain the main issues with the movie by figuring out a fictional, alternative version of what we got. An alternative cut, if you will.

Monster Project 2.jpgFirst of all, the ‘HorrorWorld&Reviews cut’ would be 70 minutes long: no characters’ introduction or formulaic backstory, the viewer would be dragged into the action straight away. In fact, the first 30 minutes or so of The Monster Project seem to be there just to make the flick get to the feature length. Also, every time this movie comes back to the characters it loses impact. In my fictional cut, all those elements would disappear.

Monster Project 3.pngSecondly, I would elongate the interviews with the monsters, which are the most original and enthralling part of this flick. Mostly Demon and Vampire (the Skinwalker not so much) are scary and intriguing and I would have liked to see a deeper exploration of their persona, which is what I would include in the ‘HorrorWorld&Reviews cut’.

Finally, I would film The Monster Project through a more traditional third-person narrative. The found-footage style is tiresome and has used up its impact in horror cinema, in my opinion. The main reason being it’s supposed to show the audience real and truthful events through the eye of a camera; however, in The Monster Project the viewer is bombarded with professional soundtrack (where does it come from?), awkward angles (why filming yourself kissing a girl?) and perfect audio recording (even when a freaking demon eats you alive).

The point is that a movie makes much more sense within its story and its ‘universe’ when it’s not filmed in found-footage fashion, because it doesn’t need to explain how this or that has been recorded. Therefore, my cut would rely on traditional filmmaking techniques and shy away from every form of found-footage.

A quick recap: I’d keep all the good stuff included in The Monster Project and make the segments about the monsters’ interview longer; I’d get rid of any attempt to character development; I’d film the movie in third-person and probably make the ending a bit less over-the-top and silly. What do you think? Would you watch it?

While we wait for Hollywood to hire my, as I said before you can still enjoy The Monster Project for what it is and you’ll probably end up having some mindless entertainment, filled with scary bits and extremely effective jump-scares, as long as you don’t overthink about it for more than two seconds. Otherwise, you’d realise that nothing makes sense. Cheers!

 

Thanks to DreadCentral for the images!

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

 

 

 

The movies of James Wan, part III – Insidious (2010) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

*Skip the premise if you read the previous posts*

Regarded by many as the best horror director working today, James Wan (27 February 1977) went on also screenwriting and producing many of his movie as well as various flicks connected to his works, such as the Saw and Insidious sequels.

Being able to revitalise several horror clichés, such as tiresome jump-scares and redundant possession-driven plots, Mr. Wan is surrounded by a claque of die-hard fans.

Independently from the single person’s opinion, throughout the last 15 years or so James Wan has had a strong impact on both the independent horror market and the public discussions on the genre. Because of his impact, I decided to analyse and review his movie from the perspective of a neutral horror-lover and passionate moviegoer. I hope you will enjoy this new series.

*Check my previous series on here and here*

Insidious (2010) tells the story of a married couple whose oldest son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) ends up in an inexplicable coma after falling from a ladder in the new house’s attic. After three months of treatment without result, Dalton’s parents Renai (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Patrick Wilson) are allowed to take Dalton home where, soon after, paranormal activity begins to occur and involve all the family members, including the other children (Foster and Kali) and their grandma Lorraine (Barbara Hershey).

I can imagine what you all think: “I’ve been there, I’ve seen the same story thousands of times already!”. And yes, besides a small detour – “It’s not the house that’s haunted. It’s your son”, the famous quote referring to the out of body experience of Dalton – the plot has nothing new to offer to the hunted house sub-genre.

However, the execution sets Insidious apart from most of the similarly plot-driven films.

hero_InsidiousChapter2-2013-1Clearly executed in a highly stylistic, old-fashioned(-ish) way, the movie recalls an old style of horror filmmaking, relying on all the clichés you can think of but, at the same time, renewing them. The infamous jump-scares are revitalised in Insidious due to Wan’s direction, which relates them to those moments and situations when the audience is actually supposed to be frightened.

Beyond that, the unsettling atmosphere is established also through a great camera-work, supported by immaculate editing choices, and an eerie score which gets under your skin increasing the creepiness of the movie.

Insidious21Furthermore, the characters are compelling and the chemistry between them is palpable and feels real, mostly thanks to Patrick Wilson. On a serious note, why the guy doesn’t star in more films? If you’ve seen him in Hard Candy (2005), you can’t help but notice he is nothing less than a great actor.

Back to Insidious, there are three other characters I didn’t talk about yet: the demonologists Elise Reiner (amazingly portrayed by Lin Shaye) and her sidekicks Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Called by Lorraine to help Dalton getting rid of the entity who is possessing hid body, Elise gives us the background to this world (the Further) where demons hide and people born with the ability to travel mentally to the astral plane (like Dalton and his dad, Josh) can get lost. Beyond being a bit too heavily exposed, this key concept introduces us to a universe we will be able to experience again and more in-depth in Chapter 2.

Before jumping to the ending and my final thoughts on Insidious, I can’t refuse to mention Specs and Tucker: many viewers hate these characters and consider them the weakest part of the movie. On the contrary, I believe they are the show stealers to some extent. They provide this light, quirky comic relief which is vital in this movie, which thanks to them gets also funny and entertaining.

ade7f5246cbc933b0c9cd80495670300As the last two characters mentioned, the ending of Insidious is very polarising and I can, in all honesty, see why. The final head-to-head between Josh and the Lipstick-Face Demon (yes, I know its name. How nerdy is that?) looks a bit cartoonish and not as tense as the rest of the film was. But, seriously, it doesn’t ruin the film either.

Nevertheless, Insidious is a first-class horror movie. And me claiming it, really does say something, since I’m usually more intrigued and curious about hybrid and non-cliché films. In fact, Insidious might be one of those rare cases when a movie pleases both the average viewer – the one who says Paranormal Activity and Silent Hills are good movies, for instance – and the mature audience as well. Yes, highly recommended for everybody.

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) kicks off right after the events of the second movie and we are immediately immersed in the world we got to learn throughout the first instalment.

insidious-chapter-2-horror-movies-2013_0Same characters, same cast, same problems for our main guys to deal with – although the Red-Face Demon (A.K.A. the Lipstick-Face Demon. Gosh, I’m a freaking nerd!) is replaced by The Old Lady, which is a better and more realistic villain, in my opinion at least. She also resembles a lot Mary Shaw from Dead Silence, as I hinted in the review of that movie.

Anyway, this movie takes also a different direction compared to the first one. Indeed, there is a mystery/paranormal detective investigation which adds layers of interest to the story but, contemporarily, makes it drag a bit too much.

insidious-insidious-24669369-1280-536Nevertheless, what Chapter 2 perfectly achieves is the characters’ arc development. The protagonists, once again, look like real, reliable people.

Let’s get it out of the way: Chapter 2 is a great sequel because it fills the gaps of the first movie and, in general, it enriches plot and characters. Long story short, it’s a necessary sequel, not one made to milk more money out of people’s pockets.

Although I would slightly pick the first over the second instalment, I believe these films should be watched together as chapters of the same story (as the title suggests). Unlike the third movie in the franchise which, beyond not being completely terrible, is quite useless and disposable. But it’s not directed by James Wan either, so this is not the place and the moment to tackle it. Cheers!