TOP 10 spookiest scenes in 2017 horror films (so far)

Hey guys, happy Friday the 13th!

Last year, to make a Friday the 13th special, I wrote a reflection upon the Jason Voorhees movies formula. I don’t really like that post anymore, thus I decided to swap tone this time around.

As a result, I came up with a list of the top 10 most frightening scenes that we’ve seen in 2017 horror movies. Unfortunately, I’m not easily scared by films, but these sequences were kind of impactful. Just to let you know, I didn’t take into consideration the ‘unsettling’ or ‘disturbing’ moments, otherwise I should have had to make a top-50 list…

10 She’s staring at you!Get Out. Chris, the lead character, is investigating on some creepy mystery revolving around his fiancé’s parents. As the good photographer he is, Chris picks up the camera to check on the family black maid when… boom! He frames her scarily staring back at him with empty eyes. This is a very impactful jump-scare that benefitted from the unsettling atmosphere created throughout the movie.

9 Jump-scare under the stairAnnabelle: Creation. Even though I’m not too keen on this sequel, when the cute Linda wonders around the creepy mansion the movie is set in, a loud noise in the dark makes the audience jump on their seats. The secret behind this well-executed jump-scare lies in its timing: Sandberg, the director, anticipated the moment and, therefore, the effect came unexpected and effective.

Dark Tapes8 Demon first apparition The Dark Tapes. This surprisingly good horror anthology finds a highly enthralling way to link four stories together: a fifth tale in which something is going downhill pretty fast for a bunch of paranormal investigators. The tension, built before the first segment started, turns the apparition of a hideous demon into a true nightmare when the storyline of the investigators is picked up again.

7 Rule #1: basements are not safe Cut Shoot Kill. This meta-slasher works perfectly as a psychological thriller, with no need for graphic sequences. That’s why, when the female lead ventures her way through a creepy basement, the discovery of a mutilated and tortured crew member (who, by the way, is still alive) gets under your skin and makes you startle quite a bit.

Killing-Ground- 36 She’s still alive! Killing Ground. Lately, Aussie movies are knocking it out of the park and this hunting game chiller is no exception. As a young couple camping by a lake discovers the remaining of a butchered family, the boyfriend nearly gets a stroke (and we did as well!) when he finds out a woman is still alive (barely…).

5 Rape attempt A Cure for Wellness. I love this movie, despite its last 20 minutes or so being completely and utterly absurd. However, towards the end Verbinski’s film betrays its tone and makes room for a rather scary scene that nobody saw coming, instead of keeping up with the mysterious and unsettling vibe developed throughout. I could have done without this sudden change of tone, but said sequence remains quite effective.

4 Pennywise and GeorgieIT. The opening scene sets the tone for you. Although this highly anticipated King’s adaptation isn’t properly scary, when the audience is introduced to Pennywise, the clown’s subtle creepiness makes us prepare for the worst, but his violent and gruesome assault to the little Georgie is something not easy to be forgotten.

EyesofMyMother_Trailer2.jpg3 Killer close-upThe Eyes of my Mother. Nicolas Pesce’s debut is a chiller that sticks with you for a long time. Awesome movie, if you ask me. One that doesn’t rely on tiresome horror tropes or conventional storytelling: however, when shit hits the fan, a nightmares-inducing close-up makes the viewer scream and, most importantly, the audience will constantly be thinking about the killer’s insane facial expression. Great stuff!

2 Krypt Creeper Gerald’s Game. Everything about the latest Mike Flanagan’s film is unsettling as hell. However, a specific character is, arguably, pure nightmare material: its abrupt, clear apparition on camera gives the audience a jump-scare for the ages, within a movie that otherwise refuses to rely on any horror cliché.

Evil-Within-6201 This would scare the devil The Evil Within. Unconventional to its core, this film utilises both horror tropes and original ways to frighten the audience. In a fully climactic grand finale, the movie ends with a bloodcurdling sequence in which one of they main characters attends a freak show. Out of the blue, a terrifying womanly creature appears on stage: the practical effects used to give it life are so well done that’s hard not to think it’s real. Which is why The Evil Within takes the cake as the film featuring the spookiest scene in 2017… so far!

Cheers!

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Saviours of the genre? A reflection upon horror cinema and its current, brightest filmmakers

Whoever has the tiniest interest in cinema would have noticed that the 2010s have seen the release of many interesting horror films.

After the prolonged drought of good Hollywood horror flicks in the early 2000s, many have finally grasped the endless opportunities offered by this chameleonic and polyhedral genre.

The search of innovation within horror cinema is, finally, experiencing a peak that, in my opinion, hasn’t been on the horizon (to the current extent) since the 80s. Eventually, production companies on one side, and audiences on the other are giving dignity to a genre which has been reduced to mindless entertainment for teenagers for a far too long time.

Sure, part of this ‘horror renaissance’ derives from the overall good quality of formulaic and conventional films and, as a result, we are witnessing a true outbreak of cinematic universes expansion. From a non-posh perspective, though, this is a quite positive feature: on one hand, films such as Insidious (2010) and The Conjuring (2013) shaped mainstream tastes for the better; on the other, they tangentially made room for unconventional and brave indie horror that might become the classics of tomorrow.

Therefore, for this blog post I decided to focus on those promising filmmaker who, working mostly on horror flicks, are redefining the genre and providing us with worthy cinematic experiences. Since I dedicated to him an entire series of posts, you won’t find James Wan in the list, although his name was worth mentioning.

If you have any disagreement or think any other director should be on this list, please let me know in the comments section below. And do not get mad at me if your favourite newcomer filmmaker doesn’t appear on this post! Cheers!

Horror directors 1David F. Sandberg (Sweden, 21 January 1981) – the Swedish James Wan’s doppelganger has debuted with two box-office blasts: Lights Out (2016) and Annabelle: Creation (2017). These movies feature conventional plot and jump-scares, which, however, are executed in a mature and wise way. Characterised by beautiful cinematography and compelling protagonists, Sandberg’s flicks please mainstream audiences to a level only Wan has been able to reach. Although I’m not a big fun of his work, its impact on the genre is undeniable and Sandberg is giving viewers something they weren’t used to anymore: pure good quality entertainment.

Horror directors 2Sean Byrne (Australia, [sorry, his bio is untraceable]) – after his acclaimed debut (The Loved Ones, 2009), Sean Byrne’s Devil’s Candy (2017) sets itself as one of the surprises of 2017. This heavy-metal horror flick has confirmed the director’s talent and given us hope for his next steps in the horror industry. Featuring unusual storytelling and surreal imagery, Byrne’s films simultaneously shy away from being overly artsy or pretentious. Let’s see what other treat he’ll provide us with!

Evil Dead - 2013Fede Alvarez (Uruguay, 9 February 1978) – with the blessing of no one less than Sam Raimi, the Uruguayan director made his feature-length debut with the surprisingly good Evil Dead (2013), a reboot/reimagination of the classic The Evil Dead (1981). Three years later, Alvarez strengthened the respect he earned thanks to the horror/thriller Don’t Breathe (2016). The guy has proved to be highly chameleonic, being able to create two extremely intriguing films which rely on very different themes (gore for the first, suspense for the latter), while conveying emotions through well-written characters and utilising unconventional camera-work. Muy bueno!

horror directors 4Jordan Peele (USA, 21 February 1979) – I know, I know. The comedian/telly producer/actor has just made his directorial debut and, so far, he’s made only one movie. Still, this little movie is the most appreciated horror flick on RottenTomatoes since… well, ever! Get Out (2017) represents a nice, innovative take on the genre. Peele’s film is something rarely seen before: a combination between comedy (a lot), horror and social commentary. All of that is accompanied by great cinematography, astounding camera-work and excellent acting. If Peele decides to keep on making horrors, mainstream audiences are in good hands.

Horror directors 5.jpgAdam Wingard (USA, 3 December 1982) – with You’re Next (2011) and V/H/S 1 and 2 (2012-2013) he earned praises, whereas Blair Witch (2016) and Death Note brought him down to earth. Regardless, Adam Wingard is a make-or-break deal that’s giving small twists to the genre. Very eclectic and innovative, his direction ranges from one sub-genre to the other: from the slasher to the anthology to the horror/thriller to the paranormal. Especially the first two I just mentioned benefitted a lot from Wingard’s talent, who’s adding unpredictability to these sub-genres. Unfortunately, he seems to having abandoned the horror route in favour of summer blockbusters (he’s set to direct the upcoming Godzilla vs Kong film). Come on Adam, go back to your horror passion: money doesn’t buy happiness! Well, it does… I think.

Darren Aronofsky (USA, 12 February 1969) – here I’m cheating a bit, since Aronofsky didn’t direct only horror flicks. However, his inclusion on this list is due to my unconditional love for the guy as a filmmaker and, more importantly, all the horror/disturbing elements included in his films. If we all close our eyes and pretend Noah (2014) never happened, we’ll realise that Aronofsky can’t make anything bad. Whatever he puts his hands on, turns into cinematic gold.

horror directors 6.pngRequiem for a Dream (2000), a surreal and disturbing journey within drugs and compelling addicts, and Black Swan (2010), an outstanding psychological horror about the ballet world, give me hope for Aronofsky’s upcoming Mother! This is, most likely, a horror drama on the trail of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – it could even be a reimagination of Polanski’s masterpiece – which has the potential to be excellent. In general, Aronofsky always delivers uneasiness through its movies, being able to add a surreal touch to them while, simultaneously, avoiding the artsy-fartsy, pretentious route. I might be wrong (or you might disagree with me), but I consider Aronofsky’s work a constant journey in the real-life horror, that one connected to our fear of drugs or unhealthy obsessions. Which means that if you’re a mama boy (like myself… ops!), Mother! would likely change your perspective!

Mike Flanagan (USA, 20 May 1978) – from a guy born in the wicked town of Salem, Massachusetts, becoming a horror director seem a natural route. All jokes apart, Flanagan is a sort of miracle man: after his 2011 debut (Absentia) received a quite cold welcome, Oculus (2013) knocked it out of the park, but was clouded by some foreign horror masterpieces that came out the same year nonetheless.

horror directors 7Both his first feature-length films revolve around the supernatural element. However, Flanagan utilises demons and ghosts to tell human stories and dig into his characters’ feelings and emotions. Yet, he plays with the audience’s expectations by creating the set-up for jump-scares and then avoiding them, whilst making us frightened in much subtler ways.

Nevertheless, I named him ‘miracle man’ since he’s been able to direct a script based on a board game and turning it into something highly watchable: Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) is a fairly enjoyable horror movie, much deeper than the story itself deserves. Also, in comparison to its predecessor Ouija (2014) – a shameless cash-grabbing train-wreck – Flanagan’s sequel looks like a masterpiece. Clever and competent, Flanagan will likely deliver other great films to both mainstream and underground audiences in the future. I challenge you Mike, your next film should be a found-footage about alien abduction: let’s see if you can turn that into a quality product!

horror directors 8Nicolas Pesce (USA, 18 January 1990) – the golden kid has nailed it with his first and – so far – only feature-length film: The Eyes of my Mother (2017) is perhaps no masterpiece, but will certainly develop a cult following. This black-and-white artsy horror/drama is almost flawless and the young director behind it handled story, cinematography and characters in such a unique, mesmerising way. Hired to direct the next Grudge film, I can only hope the production company behind the project will give Pesce as much freedom as possible, so that the guy could make his unconventional touch emerge in a Hollywood film. Make it black-and-white, Nick!

The Spierig Brothers (Australia, 29 April 1976) – did I save the best for last? I don’t know, it’s up to you to decide. In my opinion, the Aussie twins are among the best horror filmmakers working today. Their debut was the extremely underrated Undead (2003), a low-budget alien-zombie horror comedy – yes, I’m serious – which provided quite some gore, laughter and great entertainment.

However, it’s with Daybreakers (2009) that I fell in love with Peter and Michael Spierig: I talked about that film in my underrated movies series, so I won’t come back to it again, for the moment. Let me just say that their attempt to a non-horror flick (Predestination, 2014) is probably the best sci-fi film of the 2000s, at least in my opinion.

horror directors 9.jpgThe Aussie directors will make their Hollywood debut with Jigsaw (27 October 2017), the eight chapter of the Saw franchise which will have the hard task of reinvigorating a storyline that has been messed up throughout the years to the point of becoming tiresome and barely watchable. Also, in 2018 they will release Winchester, a supernatural horror drama that sounds really promising.

All in all, the Spierig Brothers are excellent at crossing genres and unconventional plots, which is what I really like about them. If with Jigsaw I’m a bit sceptical (for the first time in their career they didn’t write the script), Winchester is already one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. I honestly don’t think they will ever make any bull dust!

I know this post is already long enough, I apologise for that, I just want to add that the topic of this list is, obviously, the directors. In the 2000s there have been single movies worth watching and praising; nevertheless, these films came, mostly, from out of Hollywood: UK, France, Japan, Australia and Korea gave us many amazing flicks. However, here I decided to focus on those directors who might change the Hollywoodian attitude towards horror cinema, making mainstream films you can actually care for, instead of just wasting your money with. I hope you’ll like it, cheers!

Cannibalism meets coming-of-age story in the latest French success. Raw – movie review

Raw is a French-Belgium film written and directed by Julia Ducournau, at her debut behind the camera in a feature-length film.

Substantially marketed as the new Martyrs (2009), according to the legend that people fainted and puked in the earliest screenings, audiences went into Raw expecting an extremely violent, gruesome horror film filled with stomach-turning scenes and I-can’t-watch-this moments.

Instead, Ducournau’s film is a coming-of-age tale with cannibalism elements thrown in the mix.

Raw 2Raw tells the story of rookie student and lifelong vegetarian Justine, who arrives at a veterinary school to start college. A college that looks more like a prison, where the rookies are bullied and obligated to go through different and messed-up challenges. One of those consists of eating a raw rabbit kidney, which Justine refuses to do, at first, and then reluctantly accepts pushed by her older sister Alexia.

From that moment on, Justine develops an insane passion for raw meat that definitely goes too far…

Despite Raw was mis-marketed and the trailers made it look a restless run throughout violence and blood, it’s been acclaimed by audience and critics as one of the best horror movies in recent years.

In all honesty, I struggle to understand why.

Extremely slow-paced, the plot drags from scene to scene, with elongated shots, slow – and quite unrealistic – dialogues, nauseous sequences of rave parties where stroboscopic lightening and delirious music that will give you nothing but migraine.

Raw 3Also, the acting is quite slow and somewhat frustrating; whether it’s because of the script or the cast’s skills, every character in this movie is unlikable. Although, to be fair, Garance Marillier (who portrays Justine) conveys a wide range of emotions and carries the plot along fairly well.

However, my biggest issues with Raw consist of more than that.

Raw GIF.gifFirst of all, everything looks highly implausible. I know, I know: it’s a horror-drama about cannibalism, I shouldn’t expect everything to make sense. Nonetheless, as I stated previously in other reviews, each and every single element should be realistic within the universe of a film. And, in this regard, Raw fails on every level: the unexplained absence of adults, the rampant craziness of the students – who do drugs, destroy facilities, throw food to each other without being stopped by any form of security, the constant lack of explanations make for a very unreliable story.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I understand that the director went for the dream-like, somewhat oneiric route. Nevertheless, this premise might work in a movie like It Follows (2014), set in a timeless and undefined world, but it doesn’t in Raw, where the audience is supposed to believe the plot is taking place in contemporary times.

Which is my second biggest issue with this film. Its atmosphere, backed up by cinematography and photography, makes for an artsy film that is artsy-fartsy for the pure sake of it. In other words, it looks frustratingly pretentious and tries too hard to set itself apart from the other horror flicks.

Again, I must reiterate that I’ve got no problem with artsy horror movies (The Eyes of my Mother – is one of my favourite films in 2017), but the style must be supported by strong and effective contents. Otherwise, the product is a flop. And, sorry to say that, Raw is a flop – at least in my opinion.

However, there are a couple of redeeming qualities, namely the first plot twist – there is also a second one at the very end, but it’s predictable and, again, unsatisfying. Also, the locations are amazing and the fact that the entire movie was shot on location is to be praised.

Furthermore, the absence of false-scares and the lack of gratuitous brutality are a pleasant surprise.

Nevertheless, the standout in Raw is the score: one of the best I’ve listened to the whole year, but unfortunately inadequate to the film. Still, I recommend everyone to download it, it’s worth listening to!

Overall, though, Raw is a quite boring film, featuring an unbalanced pace, senseless sequences, disappointing acting and an uninteresting story. Sincerely, I found it very overhyped and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, unless you want to watch it purely out of curiosity. Cheers!

A dark fairy tale that will make you grip your chair. The Eyes of my Mother – movie review

Me: Baby, why don’t we watch a random horror movie? Let’s just google some lists of recent films and see what appeals to us.

A: Yeah, sure thing… there’s shitload of crappy movies, though.

Me: Fine, let’s just watch Moana or Safe Heaven then… wait, what’s this one?

A: What is it?

Me: The Eyes of My Mother, a low-budget indie horror which looks quite appreciated on IMDb… plus, it’s only 76 mins long, it won’t be too boring. Wanna watch the trailer?

A: Yup, play it… oh wow, it’s in black and white and looks creepy. I’m down for watching it.

Me: Me too, let’s do this!

 

Eyes of my motherMe: The cinematography looks really cool, there’s barely any dialogue and the atmosphere is indeed unsettling.

A: I love the camera work! Every shot is neat and immaculate… It looks like an artsy-fartsy movie, which I don’t mind like at all.

Me: What language are they speaking?

A: Portuguese

Me: Alright. It sounded familiar. Hey, some words are actually the same in Italian and Spanish, how cool is…

A: What’s that creepy dude doing? What’s he staring at?

Me: No idea, but so far it’s the most dreadful part of the film! Oh, fuck! What’s he gonna do now? This is making me feel sick… Why isn’t she reacting? Oh, the dad just got home and… oh shit! Did he use a hammer?

EyesofMyMother_Trailer2A: Nope, it was the pistol he threatened them with… look, the motherfucker is alive! Wow, she cut his vocal chords and ripped off his eyes.

Me: Gross!

 

Me: The relationship between Francisca and her dad is sick! And look, the psycho is still alive… they keep him alive, making him live like a freaking animal. Which he deserved, by the way.

A: Yeah, I don’t even know if he’s her real dad. Also, I think she has no idea whatsoever about human relationships… she’s been raised with no other contacts than her mentally ill parents – or whatever they are.

Me: Definitely… oh, what’s she doing with her dad?

A: I think he’s dead. She’s keeping the body and pretending he’s alive.

Me: She went out. So now she hooks up with this Asian lady… right?

A: Yeah, I don’t think she has any idea about sexuality, though. She’s just trying not to remain alone.

eomm2Me: This dialogue is so surreal. She’s so calm and threatening at the same time… what a great, subtle performance by this… Kika Magalhaes. Oh, she’s actually Portuguese. Great performance, no jokes.

A: She won’t let the other girl leave…

Me: No chance! Here it comes… that was very clever. I love when horror movies understand that sometimes less means more and not showing too much could make a scene more effective.

A: Where’s she going now?

Me: She’s going to visit the murderer.

A: Why’s she untying him? Oh, please tell me she’s not gonna do that! It’s disgusting!

Me: She’s sick in the head. Oh, boy, he’s trying to run away from her… that’s not gonna work, buddy.

A: That was brutal! And she shows no emotions on her face…

Me: Brutal, indeed! Hey, Francisca, I guess he was already dead at the 10th stab, the other 20 or so weren’t necessary!

 

A: Where’s she going now?

Me: No idea. But this shot is astounding. The photography is brilliant.

A: Oh, no! Why did you pick her up?

Me: Exactly, why would you do that with your baby in the car?

A: Because everybody will trust a seemingly fragile, young and quite pretty girl.

Me: Alright, now she’s screwed! Poor baby… and poor mom! She’s done the same procedure she did to the murder.

A: Her soundless scream gave chills to my spine.

Me: Agreed. This film is so cleverly unsettling and it gets creepier scene by scene.

A: Look, years have passed now. The boy grew up and the mom… for Christ’s sake, she’s still chained and imprisoned!

Me: I think Francisca’s doing with the boy what her “mom” has done with her before. She’s basically trying to build a new messed up family.

A: Good boy! There must be some good in him, he’s not been fully intoxicated by cruelty.

Me: Do you think she’ll be able to call the police?

A: Yup, can you hear the sirens?

Me: Yes! Finally!

A: Good ending, but this is one of those movies where I’d have liked to know more, go more in-depth…

Me: Which is good, this film surprised me beyond every expectation! I’m gonna review and praise it asap.

 

The Eyes of My Mother is an artsy-fartsy horror drama/ dark fairy tale which tells the story of Francisca, a young girl who will haunt your dreams. I decided to write a different review – which isn’t really a review, it’s the experience my girlfriend and I had watching this film – because this motion picture is so unique that deserves something more.

 

Shot entirely in black and white, this indie movie is an amalgamation between great acting, astounding cinematography, immaculate editing, amazing sounds design and a gripping story told in a highly unconventional way.

 

I’m not going to give anything else away. Just check The Eyes of my Mother out. You won’t regret it. Cheers!