Scraping the bottom of the barrel… something decent came out. Jigsaw – spoiler filled movie review

John Kramer, star and saving grace of the Saw franchise had long gone, beaten up and violated by an endless stream of tiresome sequels rather than killed off by cancer as it’s claimed in Saw III.

Jigsaw 1However, he still manages to be brought back to life in Jigsaw. A movie that kicks off with five people held captive in a barn, each with a metal noose around their neck. If you’re familiar with this 14-year-long franchise, you’d expect this to be the by-now famous first trap that’s shown before the movie title appears on screen.

 

Continue reading “Scraping the bottom of the barrel… something decent came out. Jigsaw – spoiler filled movie review”

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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”

Thoughts on We Are The Flesh, the most disturbing movie I have seen in 2017

Tenemos la Carne, translated to English as We Are The Flesh, is a Mexican horror movie with a French/Mexican production that had its limited theatrical release in January.

As you can imagine, I put my hands on it very late. In fact, I wasn’t able to check it out until a few days ago.

I’m here, talking about We Are The Flesh, since this film disturbed me quite a bit and was very different from everything else I’ve seen (probably) ever. Also, I’m not taking this title into consideration for my Top 10 Best and Worst horror films of 2017 – yes, I’m going to publish the list at the end of the year; you didn’t see that coming, did you? That’s because I can’t really recommend it to anyone as well as I can’t not recommend it. Weird, right?

We Are The Flesh doesn’t have a proper plot, let alone a linear storyline. We follow Mariano, an apparently insane man who lives alone in a disused flat after a sort of apocalypse happened. Until, one day, his place happens to be found by two siblings. Mariano offers them shelter; the offer, though, comes in exchange for some inhuman and highly disturbing acts brother and sister must comply.

Look, I usually dig disturbing movies, as long as they are impactful on a psychological level. When the violence is corporal, sexually explicit and gratuitous, then I’m bored most of the times – with the exception of Martyrs (2008), which works as a perfect combination of both and, therefore, is one of my all-time favourite horror films.

Anyway, to set the tone for you about We Are The Flesh, I’m going to list up some of the comments this movie got from professional, highly regarded reviewers: “an extreme Mexican fiesta of incest, cannibalism and explicit sex that should earn detractors and fans in equal measure” (Variety); “some viewers will certainly be offended, and others frustrated” (Bloody Disgusting); “this is the kind of visceral, boundary-pushing cinema that will never, ever be accepted by mainstream filmgoers – and will likely be hard going even for those accustomed to transgressive filmmaking” (Dread Central).

I specifically agree with the lads from Dread Central. The key-word, here, is boundary-pushing: the Mexican film addresses the audience with explicit sex-scenes (borderline porn) between siblings; close-ups on genitalia; rape, both homosexual and heterosexual; necrophilia; cannibalism and gore taken to the extreme. You might have seen these features before but, trust me, this time around they’re handled in a totally different way.

Personally, I wouldn’t go thus far to call the director “a sick bastard” and I even respect the actors for the bold and daring roles they played. But I can’t call this movie artistic, either.

Sure, the cinematography is gorgeous, the colour design amazing and the camera-work simply fantastic. Yes, in case you were wondering, We Are The Flesh tries to be a very artsy movie.

However, call me old-fashioned, but the story needs to make sense, at least a tiny bit. Regardless how symbolic your movie is, you can’t completely deconstruct it and turn it into a series of disturbing/disgusting scenes! I mean, you can, but probably people won’t buy it. Also, towards the end the movie goes way overboard and becomes ridiculous, despite the fact that it keeps being quite disturbing.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need to be spoon-fed in order to enjoy a movie, but I read the most diverse theories on this film and still feel like its only purpose is to shock and destabilise the audience.

Do I like the movie? Of course not! Do I hate it? I don’t, either. Am I going to watch it again any time soon? I doubt it. Thus, I am not here to recommend you to watch We Are The Flesh (I actually suggest you not to), but if you dare, proceed with caution.

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 #2 – Frankenstein (1932)

Alongside Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931), James Whale’s Frankenstein is one of the milestones of the pre-Code, a brief era between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines.

Successful and quite faithful to the original novel, Frankenstein had a generally positive reception and, to these days, is considered among the best horror movies in cinema history.

Nevertheless, the film encountered many troubles straight after its release. The scene in which the monster throws the little girl into the lake and accidentally drowns her has long been controversial. Upon its original 1931 release, the second part of this scene was cut by state censorship boards in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York.

frankenstein-theredlist.jpgThose states also objected to a line they considered blasphemous, one that occurred during Frankenstein’s exuberance when he first learns that his creature is alive. The original line – “It’s alive! It’s alive! In the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!” – has been changed in many ways by censors.

Regardless, Frankenstein presents timeless themes and food for thought that survived censorships and controversy.

Alike Nosferatu (1922), the creature represents what’s different from the society and its values. It’s scary because unknown and incomprehensible.

Yet, the relationship between science and religion is a key elements, as well as the conflict between the inevitable death and the urge for immortality.

Filled with great performances – according to the standards of that time – Frankenstein still manages to be unsettling at points, more so for the angry outburst of the commoners than for the creature itself, which is presented as both culprit and victim.

frankenstein1931eSimilarly, Henry Frankenstein (perfectly portrayed by Colin Clive) shows a contrasting nature, in precarious balance between haughtiness and scientific curiosity.

Overall, still to these days Frankenstein is a modern movie – in regards to its contents – and probably the best adaptation of the novel of the same name. Obviously, there are editing and sound design issues that most of contemporary movies don’t deal with.

frankenstein-19752070-1579-1223

Nevertheless, this is a monster movie that has more to offer than what some could think. Give it a watch, it’s definitely worth your time and attention. Cheers!

Err-ing on the side of caution for IT: Mama – movie review

 

It, the latest Stephen King’s adaptation, is coming out soon (8th September in the Unites States) and will be directed by the Argentinian filmmaker Andres Muschietti.

 

Since both the first and the second trailer to the killer clown’s film have pumped the viewers beyond every expectation, it’s worth taking a look to the previous feature-length movie directed by Muschietti.

 

Mama (2013) is based on the short film of the same name, also directed by Muschietti, and tells the story of two young sisters who have lost their parents, lived for a while in an abandoned cabin in the woods and rescued by their dad’s twin brother Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Any fan of Game of Thrones here?) and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain).

 

daily-movies.ch_MamaDe-Andrés-Muschietti-4Being very little when they got lost in the forest, Victoria and Lilly have created an imaginary mother-figure called Mama who, according to them, has been looking after them all along while they were trapped in the woods. Since Lucas and Annabel have a hard time with the custody of the sisters, they turn to psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Dreyfuss, who first discovers Mama might be something more than only an imaginary friend…

 

Purely judging by the first two acts of the movie, I’d say Muschietti is the right guy to direct It.

 

Atmosphere, sounds design, use of colours and cinematography are brilliant. There is an ongoing greenish tonality surrounding every shot that makes for an overall suspenseful vibe, while it also guarantees an implied symbolism regarding Mother Nature and the relationship mother-daughter which will be revealed towards the end of the film.

 

Yet, the camera-work hints to dangers and perils without showing them, by framing the screen as if it’s split in two symmetric parts and hiding the paranormal element from the viewer’s sight.

 

Therefore, over the first hour of runtime, Mama is a quite frightening movie, despite not having breath-taking scary moments – other than two rather effective jump-scares.

 

Also, the acting is really good. Especially in regards to Jessica Chastain and the two kids. Nothing mind-blowing, but definitely above average performances.

 

j4ylOCY.gifThe film lost me in the third act, though. Due to an over-reliance on CGI, the last thirty minutes or so of Mama are silly and, since the rest of the movie is very watchable, also frustrating.

 

Again, the reveal itself and its execution are silly and extremely ‘in your face’, so that the mystery and ambiguity built up until that point get crashed, leaving nothing but disappointment.

 

Mama’s ending is one of the few reasons why I’m afraid It would not live up to the expectations. As the 1990’s mini-series has taught us, the problem with the Stephen King’s adaptation consists of not making its ending dumb and laughable. And, unfortunately, so far Andres Muschietti hasn’t proved us he could work out a worthy conclusion for its movies.

 

Nevertheless, Mama is a watchable, middle-of-the-road horror flick which can be enjoyable but also frustrating at points. With an amazing source material, such as the novel It is based on, let’s hope Muschietti could do a better job with its next film. Cheers!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The latest 80’s creature-feature exploitation is… a bloody mess! The Void – movie review

The Void is a Canadian low-budget horror movie directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie. Kostantski has lately made a name for himself due to Astron-6, a small company known for producing 80’s-centric, independent movies that often combine horror with comedy and feature monsters and supernatural creatures.

The Void instead, is a departure from the usual comedic tone, being a straight-up horror film where gore and blood are utilised to scare more than for pure entertainment’s sake.

void_4guide__large-e1474646262477.jpgThe plot revolves around a police officer who, backed up by a group of random people, has been trapped in a hospital by a gathering of hooded cultists after rescuing a severely wounded dude who survived a bloody massacre. The group soon discovers that the hospital has been inhabited by grotesque creatures, which the mysterious cult has something to do with.

I had to re-watch it twice in order to write this review, the reason being the fact that The Void has received a quite good critics consensus, despite making me rather disappointed and indifferent. After a second view, I stick to my opinion, here’s why.

Although the movie presents itself as nothing more than an 80’s practical monster movie exploitation, it reminds me of a rip off from Event Horizon (1997) and John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Unfortunately, The Void hasn’t got the same claustrophobic atmosphere of the Paul W. S. Anderson’s movie nor the impact or the amazements of Carpenter’s masterpiece.

Even though I can’t help but respect the effort put into the practical effects of this flick, the use of colours, lighting and camera work make them displeasing, not to say frustrating. Indeed, the stroboscopic lights and the shaky-cam make for a nauseous experience, where the viewers can’t enjoy the scenes as they should. After all, gore and violent killings are what this movie is all about.

images.jpgYet, the characters don’t help the script – which, by the way, is quite dull and nonsense as well – by providing over-the-top, unreliable performances, also affected by poor cast choices. Therefore, an already bad writing is worsened by characters that are everything but compelling, especially in regards to the lead actor played by Aaron Poole.

Despite being slightly off-putting and even scary at times, The Void overly relies on gore for the sake of being gory and gruesomeness for the sake of being gruesome. All in all, it’s a bloody mess where even the good sequences get ruined by the poor direction and cinematography.

In addition, everything looks generic and bland, from the photography to the acting, from the look and feel to the score. In general, this is a big missed opportunity; much more could be done with a claustrophobic location, a creepy cult and a terrorising creature that develops from human bodies.

Although I’m not going to spoil the ending, I must say it looks dumb and unnecessarily open to interpretations. Such a cheap movie, with no room for deeper meanings and further evaluations, should have ended with a blast, in an over-the-top, amazingly exaggerated way – à la Braindead (1992), for example.

I sincerely suggest not to see this flick, it’s not worth your time and money. Nevertheless, if you want to give it a chance because nearly everybody seems to enjoy it, go ahead, it can’t harm. Cheers!