Horror, Impressions

Impressions: The Invitation

The phrase “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” would translate fairly well to my hesitation to watch this film. It came highly recommended to me by Netflix (a hit or miss recommendation at best). Due to my knowing almost nothing about it, the description of the movie, and the pictures used for it I brushed it off. It seemed like a fairly standard slasher flick. Now I don’t mean to be a horror movie snob, I am not. I love a good dumb but fun slasher flick every once in awhile, but they don’t tend to get me excited. Now that I’ve gotten to see this movie, I wish I hadn’t waited so long.

The Invitation feels more like a character piece than a horror film. The main character, Will and his current significant other have been invited to a dinner party held by his ex wife, Eden. He is uncomfortable with the idea of going, and there are slow hints that this is more than just a lack of desire to spend the evening with an ex. As they arrive at the house he begins to have flash backs, and slowly the full story is revealed. Eden and Will had a son who died in an accident, and the two fell apart as a result. Eden becomes suicidal and is sent to get help, where she meets her current husband. Will manages to hold it together more on the outside, but inside he is plagued with guilt and doesn’t actually want to move on, believing it would be betraying his son. Both have become isolated from their friends, and this dinner party is the first time the group has gotten together in two years.

Will’s story is told largely in a series of flashbacks. He slowly moves around the house remembering everything from happy moments, to the actual loss of his son. He does not cope well with being back in the house he once lived in (and where he lost his child). It begins to manifest in anger and paranoia towards Eden and her husband. Will believes that there is some other reason that out of the blue Eden has called them all together.

Eden’s story is slowly revealed during the party. The group she went to is actually part of a cult called “The Invitation”. Through it she has let go of her pain, but it’s clear she is not exactly the woman they all remember. The cult itself is rather unnerving to the group, as are Eden’s new friends that she met while away.

As the movie unfolds it’s rather unclear if Will is actually going mad from his guilt and memories, or if he is right to suspect that Eden is a danger to them. The movie builds a large amount of tension, as no side is presented as being together. For everything that Will finds proving that Eden and her husband are a danger, Will does something that proves that he is unhinged. The group is stuck in the middle trying to help a grieving Will, but stay supportive of their old friend. It makes it all the more challenging as the characters reveal themselves to be good people, and rather loving. It’s a horror movie so you know something is going to happen, but the movie manages to keep you on edge until it does.

It’s a slow pace, suspenseful character driven story that explodes in a rather big climax. I have complained about movies doing this before, as it is very easy to mess up. The Invitation manages to pull it off extremely well. When things finally start to happen it’s fast, dramatic, horrific, and rather depressing. What is going on doesn’t completely come as a surprise, while the movie does try to present you with two paths it’s fairly easy to pick out the one that it will come to. This is not a complaint, the movie does a great job keeping you entertained until that point. It also manages to get one more last shocking moment in right at the end.

Aside from the story and pacing being on point everything else flows together to help. The acting is solid, each character fitting their roles well. The cinematography fits well with the story, with a few interesting shots that help drive the drama. What really got me was the way that sound is used. There is almost no non-diegetic sounds or music used at any point in the film. It becomes rather jarring at various points, and keeps the viewer in the moment. When the movie needs to build tension it uses the characters and their surroundings to do so instead of a tense soundtrack, and it can be highly effective.

Bottomline:

This film won’t make you scream, but it will stay with you. It’s haunting, incredibly well done, and suspenseful. It is certainly one of the best modern horror films I have seen, and is worth a watch.

Horror, Op-Ed

Horror Movie Sequels That Don’t Suck

Overall I would say I am not a fan of the never ending horror sequel. A lot of decent movies are undercut by their sequels, or even decent franchises get bogged down in too many movies. Despite this every once in awhile a horror sequel comes along and is truly worth it. While they aren’t generally as good as the original, they do manage to get close enough to be worth a watch or two.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

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We are going to jump right over Nightmare 2 because it’s awful. Dream Warriors earns it’s spot not for being a great horror film, but rather for being a great comedy masquerading as a horror film. The first Nightmare movie had a strange balance of horror and making you laugh at situations that probably shouldn’t have been funny. 3 leans into that and leans hard. This is easily the funniest in the series, and does so unapologetically. It also manages to still be pretty brutal and horrifying at times.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Hellraiser quickly goes down as a series, in fact even this movie is pushing it. That being said Hellraiser is open ended enough that the sequel is nice. Kirsty’s entire family has been brutally murdered at the end of the first movie, and the Cenobites kind of leave, but in all honesty they still desperately want her. It’s sequel fodder to the max. Kirsty must once again fight against the Cenobites as well as the actual bad guys, people attempting to control them. This movie ramps up the gore, but doesn’t manage to have as solid of a story. It’s still creepy, and fairly horrifying. It’s also the only sequel in the series that I consider anything more than a joke that no one else is in on.

The Devil’s Rejects

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This movie gets the distinct honor of being much better than the first (in my opinion). The Devil’s Rejects is fairly stand alone, while it is a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, you can skip that movie. Where I felt House of 1000 Corpses was an unfocused gore fest, Devil’s Rejects is well, a focused gore fest. The movie is still in your face, brutal, and can be a bit too much. It’s also entertaining, and those of us that love messed up horror movies will have more than a few moments to enjoy.

Jaws 2

Continuing the trend of the second movie being the only passable sequel, we come to Jaws. Jaws was a very clever movie, with a lot of different intense moments. It ends with the humans being completely trapped with just the shark, and that intensity is what Jaws 2 hopes to replicate. Skipping a lot of the build up, Jaws 2 jumps straight into a group of humans being stranded in the water with the shark hunting them. It’s effective, though not as entertaining. In fact that is the bottom line with this movie, everything about it is close to what Jaws was, but falls just a bit short. It’s not a horrible sequel, and it’s certainly better than anything else in the series.

Scream 4

I debated between Scream 2 and Scream 4. Ultimately I decided on Scream 4 because it manages to capture the feel that Scream had almost completely. In fact Scream 4 is arguably not a sequel, and if anything it helps the movie. It’s desire to be something wholly unique, one part sequel, on part reboot, one part new movie, manages to work well for it. It honors the first while still pushing forward to be it’s own thing. At the end of the day Scream 4 is really just Scream next generation, and that is a good thing.

Dawn of the Dead

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I debated whether or not to include this, based solely on the fact that I don’t know that it really counts as a sequel. The “of the Dead” series are more like stand alone movies centered around zombies than an actual series of sequels. That being said if you go on the loosest definition of sequels it is one, and it’s a great one. The movie does what a lot of horror sequels do and boosts the horror, gore, and action. However, it manages to do so without losing much. It’s still a clever, horrific, well told zombie movie. It wouldn’t call it better than Night of the Living Dead, but it’s darn close.

Horror, Op-Ed

Point and Click Horror Games

Lately I have seen a number of articles and videos that include statements claiming that point and click is not a genre normally associated with horror. I won’t point them out because I don’t wish to bad mouth these people directly. In fairness if you do bring up point and click games a large number of gamers will go straight to LucasArts games or more comedic titles. That being said point and click and horror have gone hand and hand for a number of years. I thought it might be nice to discuss some of the best point and click horror games you can play.

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

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Any chance that I have to talk about this underrated gem I take. I Have No Mouth is based on an older short story. The writer of the short story was the writer for the game (as well as a voice actor). The game does go pretty far from the story itself, but due to the writer being involved in both it keeps the same feeling, tone, and overall message intact. The game is dark, disturbing, and challenging. It’s not only the player that is being forced to deal with the horrific events, but the characters themselves can also be negatively impacted by what’s around them, thus changing the outcome of the game. It’s all at once horrific and beautiful.

Gabriel Knight

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You play as lead character Gabriel Knight (never saw that coming) who is an owner of a bookstore. He discovers that he is meant to be a Shadow Hunter. The series unfolds as mystery horror games. Each one shows different cases that Gabriel must solve. While going through the games Gabriel is haunted by a number of terrifying things. From nightmares to actual enemies. It’s a dark but well done series.

Dark Seed

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Dark Seed features a normal world and then a “dark” world that is directly base on work by H.R. Giger. When you start with “inspired by Giger” you can only go to truly dark, horrific, but oddly beautiful places. The story itself follows Mike Dawson as he attempts to stop the dark world from over taking the normal world. The challenge of the game is that the clock is often unforgiving. So the game is sort of in a limbo between being a great point and click game and an unforgiving one.

Clock Tower

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It’s hard to sum up the entire series into a nice description. Many of the games are directly related to one another, but the stories themselves are challenging and far reaching. It is an impressive series, and went on to make a number of great spin offs as well. They are challenging, fear inspiring, and down right horrific at times. The series has taken inspiration from a number of other figures in horror, including (but not limited to) Dario Argento. It’s a great series, and a rather popular one that people often forget is a sign of how well point and click works together.

Decay- The Mare

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Moving into more modern horror point and click we have Decay- The Mare. This is another often overlooked but surprisingly pleasing horror game. It manages to build a lot of suspense and tension, making gamers almost want to stop solving puzzles because of what they will be faced with. Once you reach the end of the game and discover the secrets behind the horror it also stands out as one of the more unique horror games I’ve ever played.

The Cat Lady

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This game is not always classified as point and click, but I feel it really does belong there. It is a hard game to play. I don’t mean in that it is challenging, but that it is emotionally draining, forces gamers to deal with a large number of difficult subjects, and is just… hard. Despite that it’s also terrifying, and terrifyingly beautiful. It has a unique art style, and will stand out as one of the best games I’ve played in recent years.

These are by no means the only point and click horror games out there, they aren’t even all the good ones. However, they do paint a rather large picture of the two genres’ relationship. While again it’s easy to go straight to mystery or humor with point and click, it has had a pretty strong relationship with horror in the past. The modern revival of the point and click genre has a strong leaning towards horror, especially with indie games. So get out there and explore, you’ll find some pretty incredible point and click horror games.

Horror, Op-Ed, Op-Ed, Video Games

Scariest Non-Horror Games

There are plenty of horror games that keep us on the edge of our seat. They thrill us, scare us, and bring us oh so much delight. Occasionally though games come along that bring us those same feelings despite the fact that they aren’t really horror games at all. Here are a few games that bring the scary without being in the horror genre.

Minecraft

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For a game that is all about getting supplies and building your world, Minecraft can get a little intense. The truth is what is “scary” about Minecraft is that death seems to be waiting for you around every corner. While gathering resources it’s hard to balance constantly going back to a safe place to store supplies and continue on your questing. The consequences for death is losing everything that you’ve gathered, and it carries a rather harsh sting with it. Add in that the enemies are fairly scary in their own right (creepers, zombies, endermen) and you have a game that brings an intense fear, despite not being horror at all. Eventually you get used to Minecraft though, the loss of supplies stops carrying such a heavy weight, and then they upgrade the game and something new comes along to bring a bit of fear.

Metal Gear Series

MGS has a few moments in the game that make it at the very least creepy. Psycho Mantis stands out as one of those. Perhaps over time his tricks don’t hold the fear they once had, but at launch it could really creep people out. Beyond this simple boss battle there are still other moments (like the death hall) that feel slightly misplaced and rather terrifying. Going further into the series you will still have these random moments, including more disturbing boss fights, and scenes that get player’s hearts racing. MGS also deserves a nod because the actual plot itself can be down right unnerving.

Red Dead Redemption

First I am going to say that this is not including the Undead Nightmare DLC which in it’s own right belongs in the horror genre. Taking just the base game there is one aspect that manages to bring jump scares more than once, the animals. Riding around and BAM cougar. Walking along to skin an animal and BAM snake. The animals are these background “enemies” for the most part and yet they manage to bring a fair number of jump scares and intense moments of “don’t die, don’t die”. It also doesn’t hurt that animals usually warn you when they are stalking you. Instead of thinking “oh I hear a cougar better move on” it’s more of a panic inducing moment.

Halo Series

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Halo gets it’s “scary” because of one thing, The Flood. Halo starts off as a fairly interesting but standard FPS game then going along and suddenly a new enemy. The Flood is basically zombie like beings that make their appearance in the Halo series and brings a little scariness to the sci-fi games. While they aren’t enough to really push the series into the horror genre The Flood brings many aspects from horror games. They are bloody, creepy, and usually have more than one jump scare along with them.

Fallout 3

Much like The Flood from Halo, Fallout bring zombie like enemies with Feral Ghouls. In most of the series they aren’t that bad, Fallout 3 deserves a special mention because of the Metros. The metro is extremely easy to get lost in, dark, creepy, and full of Feral Ghouls. While overall Fallout 3 is not worth calling a horror game… those damn metros.

Half Life 2

I am hard pressed to believe that this game isn’t actually classified as horror, but it seems to escape that according to most. First, there is Ravenholm, a truly nightmarish level that will leave the best of gamers more than a little scared. It is filled with headcrabs and zombies, and while you can race through, going off the beaten path will help you discover more but also give you more scares. Even outside Ravenholm though the game still brings the creepy. Zombies and other various enemies will still find you, and when you start to feel like you are out of the “horror” part of the game something will happen and you are right back in it.

Dragon Age Origins

There are a few points where this game crosses into down right creepy. The Deep Roads are probably where it goes full blown scary though. It has scary enemies, and if that isn’t enough the voice over of the poem will leave many quaking in their boots.

Hespith repeats this poem:

First day, they come and catch everyone.
Second day, they beat us and eat some for meat.
Third day, the men are all gnawed on again.
Fourth day, we wait and fear for our fate.
Fifth day, they return and it’s another girl’s turn.
Sixth day, her screams we hear in our dreams.
Seventh day, she grew as in her mouth they spew.
Eighth day, we hated as she is violated.
Ninth day, she grins and devours her kin.
Now she does feast, as she’s become the beast.
Now you lay and wait, for their screams will haunt you in your dreams.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

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The Legend of Zelda is a totally kid and adult friendly adventure game. Majora’s Mask seems to start getting more than a little twisted though. First and foremost the plot itself is creepy, and along the way there are some “super fun” enemies like the Gibdo (mummies), and Wallmaster. It’s creepy, has it’s fair share of jump scares, and more then a few intense moments. Majora’s Mask almost feels like kid friendly horror.

Batman Arkham Asylum

You can probably boil down most of the “horror” in this game to the morgue part specifically. During that time in the game you will be faced with Scarecrow and his many way’s of trying to get into Batman’s mind. However, I think the overall game carries with it a bit of a “horror” feel. It’s dark, the inmates having taken over the Asylum is rather unnerving, and once you leave the morgue you are never totally free of the after effects. Next to Half-Life 2 this game to me is the top contender on the list for maybe just being able to add horror as a sub genre.

Horror, Op-Ed

Horror Movie Remakes Need To Stop

Horror movies are constantly being made. It’s a great money making genre, and horror movie fans are pretty devoted. However, lately the trend has been fewer original horror movies and more reboots or remakes. It seems to have really kicked off with Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween (some did exist before then), and has continued to go from there. Now while there have been a few good ones, for the most part this has meant a market bogged down in mediocre or just plain bad horror movie remakes. Here is a list of reasons why it needs to stop.

WARNING THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS

The reboot/remake often forgets what makes the first so great in the first place: biggest offender Friday the 13th

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One of the problems with the remakes/reboots is that often ignore what made people love the orginal. A perfect example of this is Friday the 13th remake from 2009. What really made the original Friday the 13th stand out is the identity of the killer. Since the creation of the final girl horror movies we’ve seen tons of them. Friday the 13th series, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween… the list goes on. What Friday the 13th had was the fact that the masked killer was not in fact who you thought it was. It was not Jason, but rather Jason’s mother. It was surprising, clever, and actually made this movie stand out in it’s genre.

Along comes the remake and aside from being mediocre in every other way it decides to skip the grand reveal that the killer is Jason’s mom and just make it Jason. It’s boring, predictable, completely bypassed the one moment of “wow that’s pretty unique” that the original had. Maybe the excuse is we all know that Jason’s mom is the killer, but then again wasn’t this remake supposed to be for a new generation? Not only that, but even knowing that Jason’s mom is the killer doesn’t completely ruin the experience of the original Friday the 13th. The fact is the unique killer is arguably one of the most important things about Friday the 13th so why ignore that?

The changes to the killers are usually not successful: biggest offenders Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street

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Rob Zombie, as mentioned, really kicked off this trend with Halloween. He took a unique approach to his remake and really wanted to look at that character of Michael Meyers. I give Rob Zombie credit for thinking outside the box, but the end result is just not that good. Part of what made John Carpenter’s Halloween so brilliant was that Meyers was this unknown killer. He was some random kid that seemed to live a normal life until he killed his sister. He is then sent away and described as pure evil. Meyer’s doesn’t have much of a reason for stalking and killing the teens that night. The biggest connection he seems to have is that Laurie just happens to stroll up to his house while he’s in there. He kills because he can, it’s as simple as that.

Zombie takes the time to really go into Meyer’s past. Shows him as an abused and troubled boy that doesn’t just snap, but snaps because of all the hardship he faces. The thing is the numerous Halloween sequels that came before this remake already tried that. They desperately tried to give a connection between Meyers and Laurie. It wasn’t needed then, and it’s not needed now. Zombie simply repeats what has already been done, he desperately tries to make Meyers into a complex character. Meyers was never more scary than when he was just a faceless killer with no motivation. Just like the sequels seemed to miss that, Zombie did too. I give Zombie credit for trying, but the end result is rather dull.

Wes Craven was a pro at bringing a macabre sense of humor to his movies. Freddy is the perfect example of that. He is a scary villain, one that was horrible in life, and can now channel the power of dreams to torture in death. Yet despite all this Freddy is really rather hilarious. He is one bad pun after another which really challenges the viewer to laugh while watching something horrific. It’s more than a little twisted, but it’s ultimately successful. It keeps the Nightmare on Elm Street series from being the same as the other slasher flicks.

The remake once again suffers from the desperate need for more backstory and character development for Freddy. You get a closer look at what makes Freddy, Freddy, but in the process the charm of the original character is completely lost. Freddy as a villain might be a little more twisted, but then he’s just as forgettable as the next guy because he’s been done before. The movie totally ignored what made Freddy popular, I mean the new guy makes all of one pun. Honestly Freddy’s new development is forgettable, and I find myself just wanting the old Freddy.

They think more gore is really the solution: biggest offenders, pretty much all of them

The true problem with many of the remakes is how lazy they seem. Little effort is put into making it something that still honors the classic but has it’s own voice. It’s not like remakes like The Thing (1982) where the overall theme is used but a new and wonderful plot is brought to it. No, instead they find the basic plot and then just cover it in more gore. The Hills Have Eyes focused a lot less on the emotional trauma to the characters, but had a lot more gore. Carrie doesn’t really look into the emotional break down of this girl with a slow build up to a climax, but there is a lot more gore. The Last House on the Left lost all the complex reflection but…, well you get the point.

It’s a system built on being able to make a lot of the movies quickly, and easily. Friday the 13th is the final girl movie on a lake, killer with a hockey mask, buckets of blood. Replace lake with suburbia, and the mask and you have Halloween. The fact of the matter is though gore does not make a movie scary it makes it gory. But making a movie gory with jump scares is a lot easier than really trying to work out the plot. At the end of the day it’s a sad system that just leaves classics covered in fake blood.

One of the best possible reboots wasn’t really a reboot, and others that have tried the same have failed

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As I mentioned in the introduction I won’t say that all remakes are bad. In fact one of the best exists in a world of remake/reboot/sequel, and that is shockingly Scream 4. The confused nature of what this movie is probably lends itself to the success. Instead of being a straight up reboot it’s kind of a sequel that follows reboot rules. Doing this keeps it close enough to the original while still giving it room to breath. It manages to do what Scream did all those years before. It breaks down the rules of horror (now changed for the new generation), has an interesting cast of characters, and the killer reveal that is a little shocking. The movie works so well because it hangs between a sequel and reboot, pull out the sequel aspects and it would have been a failure. It would have been a boring remake of a movie that we didn’t need.

This sort of blend between sequel and reboot was attempted with Texas Chainsaw 3D. It fails because it’s less of a sequel and more of a lazy reboot. First while being a pretty much direct sequel to Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or so it claims) the amount of time that has gone by completely breaks the timeline. More than 20 years have actually gone by, and yet the movie tries to make you believe it’s just been a few. Aside from that horrible oversight the whole plot is turned on it’s head. Leatherface is not the abused killer from a messed up family. No, the people outside the family were really the bad guys and Leatherface is a hero of sorts? I mean there is more to it than that, but it’s not worth analyzing. It attempts to find the success of blending sequel and reboot, but fails. When attempting to mimic the success of other movies it’s important to pay attention to all the aspects that created that success.

Bottomline:

At the end of the day we get a few gems of remakes/reboots. We even have a few passable ones. With the world so bogged down with so many remakes however it’s hard to sort through them to find the ones worth watching. So unless a movie is going to really actually try to honor the source material but still find it’s own voice, it just needs to not happen.

Horror, Mini Reviews

Mini Review: Scream 4

I had pretty low expectations when I first watched this movie. I love Scream and Wes Craven in general. However, I felt the series took a very clear downturn after the first movie. Scream 2 was ok, but lost a lot of it’s intelligence to fit more into a standard slasher flick. Scream 3, while funny, went off the rails. Much to my surprise Scream 4 not only went beyond my low expectations, but to me was nearly as good as Scream.

I think what makes this movie such a success is it goes back to it’s roots in a sort. It manages to embrace the modern shape of horror, with remakes and reboots to horror series. However it does so by taking on the tone of the first movie. The blend of new and old shapes the entire movie, but instead of clashing they come together perfectly. You have the adult Sidney (it is after all her story) but the movie also goes “back to school” with her cousin in high school. It brings back in the idea of “the rules” and the victims being aware of them while being hunted. This worked well in Scream, however started to feel forced with 2 and 3. In 4 it once again feels more fresh, largely because of the new rules for the new generation.

In the end it is a welcome addiction to the series. It’s smart and clever like the first and retains that interesting blend of horror and dark comedy that Wes Craven seemed to do so well. It is still gory, even commenting on the fact that modern horror has to be more than it’s old school counter parts. The story is well built, and pacing is solid. It manages to be more suspenseful than a lot of modern horror instead of just depending on the shock factor. It is hardly the best in the entire horror genre, but it is one of the top in the slasher sub-genre. If forced to pick my heart still belongs to the original Scream. But Scream 4 puts up a solid fight, and is a welcome inclusion in the series.

Horror, News

Rob Zombie’s 31 Special Event with Fathom

Fathom Events is teaming up with Saban Films (distributor), to bring a special event for the movie 31. On September 1st selected theaters will have a one night showing of Rob Zombie’s newest film. Along with the film itself there will be a music video premier, and a making of special. Like many of Zombie’s films 31 is an over the top gorey experience. There does seem to be a divide with his films, some horror fans loving them, some not caring for them. I will say good or bad, Rob Zombie brings something uniquely him to each one of his films. For those that miss the Fathom screening it will be released on VOD September 16th, and then in theaters October 21st. If you want to see the Fathom special check this site for locations and times. If you haven’t heard of the movie it follows five friends who are kidnapped and taken to Murder World. While there they must participate in a game called “31”, and survive while a gang of clowns attempts to kill them.

 

Horror, News

Antibirth Trailer

IFC Midnight has released the trailer for a new indie horror film. For those that don’t know IFC Midnight is linked to IFC (of course) and distributes horror films for the company. They were involved with #horror, as well many others. Antibirth is the latest, and will be coming September 2nd. Antibirth follows the story of Lou played by Natasha Lyonne, who experiences symptoms of pregnancy after a night of hard partying. It clearly is not a normal pregnancy however, leaving Lou to wonder what exactly is growing in her. The movie promises to dive deeply into delirium. Chloe Sevigny will also star in the film as Lou’s best friend. If you are looking for slightly out there indie horror flicks Antibirth, and the IFC Midnight library is a good place to start.

Horror

Thou Shalt Not: Horror Movie Sins

Horror is a long running genre, that through the years has seen many highs and lows. It’s a delicate balance to make a movie that manages to hit all the right aspect of terror. A few simple mistakes can really shift the overall feel of a movie. Here are some of the biggest horror movie “sins” that many movies make the mistake of making.

Having a Climax that is Less Intense Than the Rest of the Movie

Notable Sinners: The Veil

A good climax can really solidify a horror movie. The right climax can take what seems to be an average film and push it over. The wrong climax though? If you are going to build to one certain moment (or series of moments) make sure that it’s worth it. Films like The Veil manage to build a lot of tension and suspense, then fail to deliver where it matters the most. The last few moments of The Veil are rather stale and unimaginative in comparison to what we already witnessed. It leaves the viewer with a slightly dissatisfied feeling, and prevents this movie from achieving something more.

Having a Fake Final Girl

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Notable Sinners: I Know What You Did Last Summer

Now let me explain, I don’t think that all slasher movies need to be final girl movies, in fact there is plenty of room for other types of slasher films. That being said if you are going to build up your movie to be a final girl movie, then it better be a final girl movie. I Know What You Did Last Summer really wants Julie James to be the final girl. They force her into the role in many awkward and unbelievable ways. The problem is they don’t want to actually kill off the rest of the cast to achieve this. What’s left is a movie that feels a bit confused.

Having Endless Sequels

Notable Sinners: Hellraiser

In fairness you can actually take your pick with this category, there are a lot of movies that have way too many sequels. I chose Hellraiser because I can’t actually honestly say I believe it has any good ones. Hellraiser 2 could be considered passable, but after that the series desperately needed to stop. In fact at one point the studio made a sequel that they KNEW was bad just to keep the rights over the movies. Sometimes when you love something you have to let it go.

Making Sequels that Miss the Point

Notable Sinners: Friday the 13th

I actually like the Friday the 13th series, they are the kind of dumb but fun horror movies I enjoy on occasion. The problem is they just miss the point completely. Friday the 13th stands out for a slasher flick because of the choice of killer. It’s unexpected, unique, and more than a little sad. Jason is a victim completely, so much so that even though we THINK he’s getting his revenge the truth is of course not, he’s just dead. Friday the 13th 2 (and on) lost that when they made Jason the killer. It’s no longer unexpected, and it loses a lot of what made the first movie shine. Maybe the first didn’t allow for endless sequels, but it did bring something a little more to the genre.

Being to Afraid to Stand on Your Own

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Notable Sinners: Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

This movie is frankly underrated. It’s underrated because it shouldn’t have been a Halloween movie to begin with. The movie was set to release around Halloween, and the studio was afraid that after doing two movies, if they didn’t put “Halloween” in the title that it wouldn’t fly. The problem is this movie has nothing to do with the rest of the series, and it set expectations that the movie would never be able to live up to. The movie is doomed not because it’s so bad, but because of a really bad choice.

Remaking a Movie with Gore and No Substance

Notable Sinners: House of Wax, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street

The problem with a lot of remakes is that they seem to start from the stand point that the movie it’s based on has no real value. In truth you could make arguments against the horror genre, but I feel it’s a bit unfair. I digress, my point is, so many remakes just throw buckets of fake blood at the basic plot and completely miss any real substance that the original had. Friday the 13th doesn’t even bother with Jason not being the killer, House of Wax is gore porn with no suspense, Nightmare on Elm Street lost it’s balance between comedy and horror. How much the original movies actually offer is debatable, but they did offer more than shallow, forgettable, blood spattered remakes.

Being a Found Footage Film When Not Needed

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Notable Sinners: The Visit

Found footage films have become the big thing. In fact even though people are largely starting to complain about the subgenre the movies keep getting cranked out. The reality is there are some horror movies with a base line plot doesn’t seem that bad, but they are then shoe horned into a found footage film. The Visit is about kids go to visit their grandparents, who start exhibit strange behavior. The resulting movie is strangely put together because of the need to make it “found footage”. It’s not a bad movie when you look at the basics, but there was no call to make it found footage. So the resulting movie is odd and simply doesn’t work.

Horror, Mini Reviews

Mini Review: Creep

I went into this movie with fairly low expectations. Simply put, I am over found footage horror films. I was never a huge fan of them in the first place, but lately I am even more over it. I was actually very surprised by Creep. Creep is a very suspenseful, slow building, character piece almost. Josef hires Aaron to make a film because he is dying and wants to leave it for his unborn son. The more time Aaron spends with Josef though, the more he realizes how unbalanced he is. The movie is centered on the slow build towards Aaron finally realizing that he is in great danger from Josef. Josef meanwhile starts to become more and more unhinged.

Creep is really clever, and while not the most intense horror film I’ve ever seen it does keep you interested from start to finish. Mark Duplass does an amazing job as Josef, and he is truly creepy. It’s not the best horror film I’ve ever seen, but it’s rather good. Suspenseful, disturbing, well written, and across the board a pretty solid experience.

Horror, News

The Strain Season 2 Box Set Coming Soon

Fox has taken to Twitter to announce the Season 2 Box Set for the hit show The Strain. The Blu-Ray collection will be releasing August 23rd and will cost $49.99. You can now pre-order it on Amazon and at other locations. The Strain is an FX series based on the novel trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Hogan and del Toro have both been involved with the series in different functions, however they do take a more backseat role. The first two seasons were met with mixed reviews, but fans seem very devoted to the show. Season 3 will be premiering August 28th. So if you are a fan prepare to add to your collection, or if you are new to the series you might just want to catch up before season 3.

Do you watch The Strain? Let us know in the comments.

Horror, Impressions

Impressions: The Forest

I want to get this out of the way before diving into the the main meat of the impressions, there was a lot of controversy with this film. Many people felt that the movie mishandled both the way it represented Japanese people, as well as how it handled suicide and depression. I can see where people are coming from with these arguments, however it’s not something I feel comfortable speaking on as I am not expert.

The Forest is features Natalie Dormer stepping into the role of identical twins Sara and Jess. Many people were curious because they feel Dormer has been untested outside of Game of Thrones and this would be a chance to see what she could do with not one but two roles. Aside from Dormer the actual plot of the film seemed fairly interesting to many. However, with all said and done what is the take away?

Story:

Jess and Sara are identical twins, with Jess always being the more problematic of the sisters. Jess moves to Japan and goes missing on a class trip, to Aokigahara Forest. Sara believes Jess is still alive due to a special connection they share as twins. Sara goes to Japan to search for Jess, and meets writer Aiden who agrees to take her into the forest with a guide, Michi. While there Sara begins to be taunted by her own inner sadness, her need to find Jess, and the spirits in the forest themselves.

Impressions:

I try not to start these pieces being overly negative, but there is not a lot I can say positively about this movie. It’s boring. Not bad, not gross, not over the top, boring. It sets up predictable jumps scares that fall flat, has no tension, and completely fails to bring any suspense. A movie about two people isolated in a forest (a forest known for suicide or not) should be really scary. Add in one of the characters going a little mad, and you should have a slam dunk. Instead The Forest is just flat.

The foundation is solid. As I said an isolation piece can be very effective, as can dealing with madness. It attempts to build tension by the location chosen, a place known for suicide, and deals heavily with the idea of what’s real or not. So with all the good ideas it’s rather surprising that nothing comes out of it. I struggle to put my finger on what exactly goes wrong, and the best I can guess at is it tries too hard.

When dealing with the idea of what’s real and what’s not there is no possibility of anything being real. It’s so clear that the things tormenting Sara are fake, so you never really start to wonder if she’s going crazy or not, you just know she is. Her story is also too much. It keeps trying to add on layer after layer after layer to give reasoning for why Sara and Jess would be susceptible to depression (and thus The Forest) when the reality is only one or two of those layers are needed. It also just keeps banging the audience over the head with it being “the suicide forest”. The movie just ends up adding too much, and drowns in it. Taking away multiple elements and scenes would still leave the movie overloaded and it would still end up drowning itself. It never has a chance to execute because it just tries too hard. Also again it’s boring.

I will say that Dormer does a solid job. Given the weakness of the script she doesn’t shine, but the fact that she also doesn’t do horrible in such a bad movie says something. I would love to see her in a movie that succeeds in the tension and suspense this film is attempting.

Bottomline:

Unless you are just very curious, skip this movie. It’s predictable, overworked, and not in the least bit scary.

Horror, Impressions

Impressions: The Witch

The Witch is an indie horror film written and directed by Robert Eggers. It calls itself a Folktale in the tagline, and attempts to separate itself from modern horror. It prides itself on historical accuracy, and the fears of the religious during the time it is set. It was well received by most critics, and we’ve finally had a chance to watch it and give our own impressions.

Story:

The story follows a family that is kicked out of their Puritan plantation. The father has been preaching and believe he knows the real word of the gospel, so they are expelled to live in the wilds. They build their farm and, at first have a fairly steady life. Thomasin, the eldest daughter, is asked to watch the baby Samuel and he disappears. Not long after the farm seems to be corrupted, and one by one the family is harassed and tormented. Thomasin receives the blame from the family, as they all turn on her, and each other.

Impressions:

This movie was praised as being so wonderful, especially in comparison to a lot of modern horror. I would agree with that statement, though feel it gets a major pass because what it’s stacked up against is not nearly as clever. In a world filled with gore porn The Witch actually attempts to be a smart, suspenseful, thriller/horror movie. This does by in large make it better than a lot of what you can see, it doesn’t however make it great. I know how negative that statement comes off, and I want to clarify that I do think the movie is rather good, just slightly overrated.

The isolation theme is well done. The family is actually completely alone, other than whatever is coming for them. The story itself is compelling. The family is falling apart and their religious beliefs are being tested, which at the time is really the worst thing that can happen to them. They all know something is wrong, but they don’t know exactly what it is.

Perhaps the most clever part of the film is the isolation that Thomasin feels. It takes very little for the entire family to turn on her, and once they do so it seems like their destruction is all but guaranteed. It deals with historical accuracy and chooses to build fear with heavy use of shadows and imagery rather than blood and guts. It does all of this well.

The problem is the movie suffers from bad pacing, and is extremely predictable. You know that whatever is going after them is using Thomasin as their scapegoat. One by one everyone is left alone with her, so when something happens to them there is no tension. Suspense I find is more important and impactful in horror films than jump scares, but it has to be done right. The Witch gets close at a number of moments, but is never really able to drive it home. You are left with something that is creepy, but it’s not really scary and shouldn’t it be? For me the test of a great horror film is how far it lingers, this movie did linger a little, but I would have liked more.

Bottomline:

The movie is good, and worth watching. The plot is interesting and it’s very well shot. It just fails to make a major impact which is something I really want from horror. It’s a good movie, but falls short of being a great horror film. I am curious to see what we will get from Robert Eggers in the future, this was his directorial debut and it was a rather good outing.

Horror, News

John Carpenter Coming Back to Halloween

There have been a lot of shake ups with the Halloween franchise lately, mostly around Dimension Films no longer having the rights to the franchise. Blumhouse, which has recently been known for the Paranormal Activity series, The Veil, and The Darkness, now owns the franchise. They have announced plans to bring back Halloween with John Carpenter as producer and creative consultant. There was a massive division among fans with the Rob Zombie reboot of the series, Zombie wanted to explore Michael as a human. Carpenter has not insulted this idea, but it’s pretty clear he wants the franchise to go away from that and back to when Michael was (in his own words) “not just a human being” and “a force of nature”. While the 1978 classic Halloween was hardly the first slasher film ever made, it is credited by many with really bringing that subgenre to a new level. Carpenter wants to help Blumhouse bring Halloween back to it’s roots. We are very excited to hear this announcement, and will bring more news as we can.

Horror, Mini Reviews

Mini Review: The Green Inferno

I tried to go into this movie with a rather open mind. I will admit I am not the biggest fan of Eli Roth as a director. He really seems to make mostly gore porn, which I don’t care for, or see much value in. That being said after seeing The Sacrament, which he produced, I had hoped that he had grown a little. The reality is The Green Inferno is just the same gore porn with lot prettier cinematics. That might be harsh, but really I can’t think of another way to put it.

Justine is the daughter of a UN lawyer, and conned by a group of activists to join their latest cause. They go to the Amazon in order to protest deforestation and the murder of indigenous people. Justine finds out they only brought her, knowing that having the child of someone that works for the UN being threatened would sell their cause. Justine is rightfully angry, but the group finishes their protest and starts to leave. However, their plane crashes. A good chunk of the cast dies in the resulting crash, the survivors are kidnapped by the very tribe they were hoping to save.

The tribe ends up being cannibalistic, naturally, and if that wasn’t bothersome enough they are also believers in female circumcision (mutilation), headhunters, and pretty much every other offensive version of what people assume indigenous people to be. What results is gore, highly problematic depictions of both the “heroes” and the “killers”, and just a mess. It’s offensive, over the top, and sadly has almost no redeeming value. The characters themselves are completely unsympathetic, with the leader of the group turning into a unrelenting jerk as a result of what they are going through, and our survivor girl Justine is more annoying than worth cheering for. There is a clear underlying theme about fake activism, but it’s drowning in all the issues this movie has.

At least there are some pretty shots of the forest? Really though there is nothing here. Find any cannibal movie from the 80s and slap a coat of paint on it and you have The Green Inferno. There is nothing original or worthwhile at play. The best compliment I can give it is that some of the people do ok with the acting, but really only some. If you like shocking over the top gore porn this is the movie for you. If you believe horror should be more than just “horrific scenes” then move on.

Horror, Impressions

Impressions: #horror

#horror was a video on demand movie, meaning much like The Veil, it didn’t have a major release but instead went straight to streaming services. It’s a new way a lot of studios/directors are choosing to handle horror so they can skip box office competition, and even push the limits. #horror does push the limits with a cast of mostly young girls, but was that enough to make it worth tuning into?

Story:

#horror follows a group of mean girls. Sam shows up at a sleepover, even though she doesn’t really fit in with the group. The girls are rather awful to each other, and obsessed with their own social media. After a round of rather mean bullying, Cat is asked to leave the house, and Georgie is sad because a mean picture of her will be out on the internet forever. Sam comes up with the great idea of locking up their phones, thus creating the situation in which the girls can’t call for help. Not long after the cellphones are locked up the girls get freaked out by Cat’s father and one by one start to go missing. Pictures of the girl’s murders show up on the internet as the survivors attempt to escape.

Impressions:

#horror has a fairly clever idea. Talking about the obsession with social media, and how awful the girls are to each other seems clever. The execution leaves a lot to be desired though. The movie becomes rather obsessed with it’s own point, to the extent that it seems to forget itself. The girls are awful, and completely unsympathetic. The focus is also so much on them that the adults suffer a great deal. In fact the extreme talented Chloe Sevigny has an almost painful performance it’s so stiff. The plot suffers because every time it gets rolling it needs to stop so the girls can once again remind us that we are too obsessed with our phones, and too mean to one another.

The movie also has the shock factor to it. The girls are hunted, and their death scenes are brutal and rather drawn out. Most major motion horror films tend to gloss over the killing on children. Even if included there is a fade to black or the camera pans away, this movie does not bother with that. Because it was VoD there was less dealing with the ratings board, and so the movie pushes the limits a bit with the death of the girls. I have said it before, and will say it again, shocking does not make a movie good, it just makes it shocking.

Bottomline:

I know I didn’t say much, but frankly there just isn’t much to say. The movie is not good. It is so obsessed with it’s own point it fails to be neither compelling nor entertaining. It depends entirely on being shocking and “having something to say”. So you are left with a dull film that fails to live up to what it was trying so hard to say. It can be skipped.

Horror, News

Fox Orders The Exorcist Series

Earlier today we reported that FOX plans to bring Lethal Weapon to TV, they plan on doing the same with The Exorcist. The series is said to be more inspired by the book than the horror movie. It will be a psychological thriller, and follow the stories of two men trying to help a family dealing with demonic possession. Jeremy Slater has been brought on as the writer, and Rupert Wyatt as director. Other than that there is really no news on the series itself. As more unfolds we will bring you that news.

Horror

Worst Horror Movie Taglines

Not long ago we made a list of some of the best horror movie taglines. As we said, the horror movie tagline is kind of an art form. It helps to sell the movie, build expectations, and insight a bit of terror. Sometimes though the tagline fails, even if the movie doesn’t. Here are some of the worst horror movie taglines.

Psycho: “A new– and altogether different— screen excitement!!!”

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For one of the best horror films ever made (in my opinion) this is a rather blah tagline. There was a lot of marketing put into the fact that Psycho was indeed a different type of movie/movie experience, and it truly was. However just saying it’s different and splashing some exclamation points on it just doesn’t take.

Halloween: H20: “This summer, terror won’t be taking a vacation”

Perhaps when making a movie titled Halloween you shouldn’t be using “summer” in your tagline.

The Flesh Eaters: “The only people who will not be STERILIZED with FEAR are those among you who are already dead”

Wait… what? This tagline is confusing, and you start to feel like you are missing something with the choice to put sterilized in all capital letters, also to use the word sterilized.

Jaws: The Revenge: “This time it’s personal”

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Honestly this tagline is perfect for pointing out exactly what’s wrong with this movie. It shouldn’t be personal, why is it personal? It’s a shark!

 

Suspiria: “The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minuets of this film are the first 92”

I get what they are trying to do with this tagline, however it just doesn’t work. Instead of saying “you will be watching a movie that’s extremely scary then it gets even scarier” I feel like I am being told that the first 92 minuets of the film are kind of a waste leading up to the end. The reality is it’s not true, the movie is great from start to finish. But this tagline just sets up an expectation of tedium while waiting for the ending.

Urban Legend: “It happened to someone who knows someone you know… You’re next”

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It’s just grammatically a mess, and also doesn’t really cause much in the way of terror.

Ape: “Not to be confused with King Kong”

If there were ever a way to undersell your own movie, this is it.

Circle: “Death is just around the corner”

As with Halloween H2O your tagline should not be entirely counter to your movie title.

Ghost Ship: “Sea Evil”

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If you are going to attempt to sell your movie with a pun, put more thought into it.

 

Tourist Trap: “Every year young people disappear”

And? This is an example of trying to go minimal, but not really succeeding. It feels unfinished rather than succinct.