Archive for Horror Movie

Review: Almost Mercy (2015)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2016 by Xander Woolf

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Dir. by: Tom DeNucci
Starring: Danielle Guldin, Jesse Dufault

What’s it about?
Emily (Guldin) and Jackson (Dufault) have had rough childhoods, to say the very least. Bullied in school, sexually assaulted, verbally abused, molested… the atrocities that happened in these kids’ lives seem to be never ending. Now in high school, the two are close to breaking. The question is, who will break first?

What did I think?
Almost Mercy has a film-making style that shows its influences clearly. There were scenes that reminded me of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and others where I was reminded of Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys. It also had elements of slasher films, high school horror and psychological thriller. No wonder Netflix gave it 4.25 stars.

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Emily (Guldin) and Jackson (Dufault)

While this movie contains major gore, violence and other terrifying situations, I don’t think I could classify it as horror like Netflix does. I wasn’t scared by it. It’s more of a dark (extremely dark) comedy, where you find yourself laughing at the way people are being killed, rather than scared for those people’s lives (much like A Clockwork Orange). It’s ridiculous that way. I mean, selfies are taken with freshly murdered bodies. That’s not meant to be scary.

Danielle Guldin and Jesse Dufault did amazing jobs as Emily and Jackson. Troubled and angsty youths, they were able to show us the absurd side of their actions while also making us cheer for them. And the supporting cast were just so very good at making us hate them with a passion. I’m one of the most empathetic people you’ll ever meet, but even I think those people deserved what they got in this movie.

The biggest problem I had with Almost Mercy was the story behind Mercy Brown, a young girl who had died about 100 years prior from Tuberculosis. The two teens hail themselves as “The Friends of Mercy” and she’s important enough for her name to even be in the title, but she had very, very little to do with the actual movie itself. They could have worked the story into the plot in a much stronger way, so we could make the connection more easily, but it fell short.

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Mercy Brown

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. I won’t give it away, I promise, but it’s not realistic. Sure, I smiled because I felt good for our main characters, but when you really think about it, that many murders would lead to a much more severe outcome. Perhaps it’s all part of the absurdity.

Do I recommend it?
Oh, yes. Most definitely. Go and watch it. On Netflix. Now.***

***If you’re triggered by depictions of sexual assault, molestation, child abuse, gun violence or bullying, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE.***

wolfout

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Review: Hush (2016)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2016 by Xander Woolf

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Written and Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Also Written by: Kate Siegel
Starring: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr

There’s a heat wave in LA and I only have AC in the living room, so I took time out of packing and getting ready for my move across the country (more on that in another post) to sit down and watch some good old Netflix horror movies.

Hush had been showing up on my recommended list for quite some time. It looked to me like just another serial killer home invasion movie. I wasn’t wrong, but it’s got itself a nice twist on a classic.

What’s it about?
Maddie (Siegel) is deaf and mute. In what I can only imagine is an homage to the great Stephen King, she lives alone in an isolated cabin and writes murder mystery novels. One night, she is targeted by an intruder (Gallagher), but just because she can’t hear doesn’t mean he has the advantage.

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What did I think?
Upon watching Hush, I was delighted with it. I was eager to see how Maddie could get herself through this situation without being able to hear him. Most horror heroines rely very heavily on their sense of hearing, especially when they’re hiding. Maddie has to see her attacker in order to keep tabs on him, which means that Maddie can’t really hide.

After some further consideration, however, this movie falls a little short. Kate Siegel does an amazing job as Maddie. Maddie did everything I would have wanted her to. It’s the intruder (who is nameless) that I have issue with.

We at no point come to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. This makes him ineffective as a villain. John Gallagher Jr doesn’t portray the intruder as a psychopath – he was too much like a normal guy. He’s not frightening after he takes his mask off. He doesn’t even act like he’s enjoying what he’s doing. There’s no laughter at her pain; there’s no menacing monotony in his voice when he’s speaks to her. There are no signs of psychosis other than the fact that we know he’s trying to kill her.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing the actor. He did a very good job as directed. It’s the director that made this choice for the character. The whole movie would have been more effective if he had left his mask on and did not speak to her. He would have been scarier, especially since we learn nothing about him, other than the fact that he’s killed 13 people with his crossbow.

Everything else with this movie was well done, though. The lighting, the atmosphere, the portrayal of a deaf and mute victim. However, the ineffective villain left me calm throughout the whole thing. Not one jump; not one second at the edge of my seat.

Do I recommend it?
If you have nothing better to do, go ahead and watch it. Tell me if you think I’m wrong. Other than that, though, don’t make time in your schedule for this movie. There are much better picks out there.

wolfout

Review: The Forest (2016)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2016 by thiathebard

the-forest-2016-horror-movie-trailer-title-directed-by-jason-zada-starring-natalie-dormer-taylor-kinney-eoin-macken

Dir. by: Jason Zada
Starring: Natalie Dormer, Eoin Macken, Stephanie Vogt

I think that most horror fans have a favorite sub-genre. One of mine is Japanese Horror, or J-Horror. I love creepy schoolgirls that just pop out of the shadows, ghosts that kill people with their hair and the overall physiological shocks that these movies bring. I was excited when I thought that The Forest would be able to have many of those qualities. I was also worried, like many other people, that the movie would be disrespectful of the Aokigahara Forest.

The Aokigahara Forest plays a large part in the movie. It is the setting for the majority of it. The forest could also be argued to be the antagonist. Now, why would a horror movie center around a forest in Japan that is also a popular tourist attraction? Partially because it’s very dense and without much wildlife. This gives it an eerie quiet. The other reason is because it’s a popular site for people to commit suicide and is supposedly haunted by angry spirits of the deceased.

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Thus brings about the plot of The Forest. Sara Prince (Dormer), an American, receives a phone call explaining that her twin sister, Jess (also Dormer), might be dead. Jess was last seen going into the Aokigahara Forest. Her sister has always been troubled, so Sara travels to Japan for answers. When she ends up with more questions than answers, she decides to go look for Jess in the forest itself.

The movie is good. The Forest is not great, but also not as bad as I thought it might be. I still have some complex feelings about the story, though.

I loved the hints of J-Horror; the darkness of it. The scenes in the older buildings made me think of other movies I love. It put me on edge. Trust me when I tell you I wanted those ghosts. I wanted the twists that come with them. Every time Sara talked to someone outside of the forest, I kept wondering, “Is this person really alive? Are they being interacted with by anyone else?”

I still feel torn because The Forest does have a white person just charging into a place and a culture that they don’t entirely understand. I don’t think that The Forest was disrespectful of the Aokigahara Forest, but the movie is also clearly from an outsider’s perspective. I think that made it lose some of the scares that could have be there. Instead of being properly afraid, Sara just stomps along expecting everyone to fall in line. I hate to admit that I always love when characters like that get tormented.

Please understand that I did like Sara. I understood her abrasiveness. I appreciated her need to get things done to save her sister. As I learned her backstory, her actions also made more sense. I just wish that the main character would have had a better understanding of the lore of the Aokigahara Forest. Having American Sara, who researches so little beforehand, also gives us less to be afraid of from the start because we have so little information about the Aokigahara Forest and its possible ghosts.

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Why are people going to commit suicide there? What possible energy could be stuck there? What emotions still fill the space? All of this kind of information could have been given to Sara before she went and the audience could have had more to jump at. As an American myself, I want to know all about it. Give me the history. Every theory. Let it fill my brain up with possibilities. Instead, we are rushed through. I suppose that was supposed to make it mysterious and more scary – fear of the unknown and all that – but I think it did quite the opposite.

I think Jess knows. I think Jess knows the lore and the history. I think she goes into the forest with respect on the trip and with the intention of acting upon her knowledge. It is one of the differences between the sisters. Sara is so fast paced and sure. Jess is not. The audience also only sees Jess through Sara’s eyes. We see Japan and the Aokigahara Forest through Sara’s perspective. I honestly think it would have been more interesting through Jess. Her knowledge and immersion in the culture would have made the film so much richer. We get so little of an appreciation for the culture surrounding the main setting of the film.

Overall though, I did like the film. I liked the characters. I was concerned and unsure when I should be. The settings lent to the story. Some of the effects were unnecessary. I was a little disappointed with the end, but it has left with me with a few theories.

My rating stands at: Good.

Watch the trailer here:

Review: Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2016 by Lilliandra Winters

Dir. by: Brad Andersonposter
Written by: Joe Gangemi (screenplay), Edgar Allan Poe (based on a short story by)
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, David Thewlis

This was another movie that sat on my Netflix queue for far longer than I am willing to admit. Of course, the amount of names in this movie is a draw, but throw Edgar Allan Poe at me and I’m nearly salivating to see what lead someone to invoke his name.

An hour into Stonehearst Asylum and I’m curious to see what brought such big names to the script. The names that I didn’t notice were rather large, to me at least. Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, Jason Flemyng… hell, I almost expected Harry Potter to pop out at one point.

We follow Dr. Edward Newgate (Sturgess) as he enters the Stonehearst Asylum to study under Dr. Salt (Kingsley). He encounters Eliza Graves (Beckinsale) who is a patient there. Of course, not everything is what it seems. Edward is infatuated with Eliza, who begs him to escape and never come back, but he won’t leave without her. It is quickly revealed that Dr. Salt is a patient. The real Dr. Salt (Caine) is locked in the basement with the rest of the staff as the inmates have taken over the asylum.

There is a beauty in the dance that Dr. Newgate performs to keep Silas Lamb (Kingsley) and the rest of the staff unaware that he knows. Eliza helps him perform it with grace. Going forward, you realise that Silas had the best of intentions for the inmates and wanted to do nothing more than stop the barbaric things (truly barbaric and sadly true to life) that happened to mental patients in the late 1800s. He saw that insisting people are broken only breaks them. Embracing, accepting and accommodating many of the mental illnesses that are present causes most of the patients to thrive and grow, but horrors still lie beneath it all, as not all illness is so easily handled.

Going much further into the story will give away so very much and I don’t want to ruin all of the twists. The acting was as incredible as you would expect it to be from this caliber of talent. Some names took much smaller parts than I would assume from them, but at the end it was an amazing story and a good movie.

I’m finding it hard to put thoughts onto paper in regards to my issues with the movie. Everything about it was absolutely stunning: the acting, the sets, the beautiful wardrobes… all of it. However, this movie was more drama/love story/horror and even that felt like a bit of a stretch. Yes, there was one gory scene and the way that mental health is treated is an absolute horror but… it lacked the same feeling; it lacked any fear for the actual characters and so much of the emotion that I associate with a horror movie. At the end of the movie, I felt it was more akin to a thriller.

Now, that all being said, it is a fantastic movie that I would recommend anyone watch who is into thriller/drama/love story type movies. Again, the talent alone is enough to draw you in and even though I found myself questioning the choice of movie mid-way through, those questions were not based on the movie but my own first impressions. As I stated, horror, to me, feels like a stretch and several actors had much smaller roles than I anticipated.

Watch it. Tell me if I’m wrong. Tell me what category you would put it under. Tell me where to buy Kate’s wardrobe.

WintersOver4

Review: Final Girl (2015)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2016 by Lilliandra Winters

Dir by: Tyler Shieldsfinal-girl.jpg
Writen by: Adam Prince (screenplay), Stephen Scarlata (story)
Starring: Abigail Breslin, Wes Bentley, Logan Huffman

I was browsing through my Netflix horror section and came across Final Girl. This was a film that I had passed several times. The cover picture has always caught my eye, especially since I recognized the lead actress for her earlier work (Haunter and Scream Queens). I was fairly sure she was a child actress (She is: Little Miss Sunshine) and I was interested in seeing what she had to offer as an adult. Not only that, but the description enticed me, as many do:

A man teaches a young woman how to become a complete weapon. Later she is approached by a group of sadistic teens who kill blonde women for unknown reasons. The hunting season begins.

It isn’t any longer than other movies, so why not? I instantly began to recognize other actors. Besides Wes Bentley, I also knew Cameron Bright and Alexander Ludwig. I wondered how this would all play out and hoped for the best.

The premise of the movie is interesting enough. A young girl’s parents die. She, being intelligent, was brought into what I can only assume is a special program. This is where the story ripples for me a little bit. It is suddenly years later and Veronica (Breslin) and William (Bentley), who originally brought the Veronica into the program, are obviously much older. I’m assuming late teens. Now, I would imagine that she was being trained all of these years, but that isn’t what is even remotely portrayed here. It actually comes off that she had little to no training up to this point and is just now learning, as he is explaining to her what she must do. This part is the most confusing. He seems to be cramming all the information she needs to succeed in her mission into a mere day or two, but why? Why not use the years you’ve had with her?

Here’s the long and short of it. Four boys (Huffman, Bright, Ludwig and Reece Thompson) love to dress in tuxes and take girls out into the woods and hunt them. After this group has killed many young women, Veronica is tasked with infiltrating and taking them down. Simple and elegant.

I very much enjoy the idea, but the execution is sloppy. The beginning of the movie doesn’t add up and it feels rushed. We don’t need a training montage of her as a child learning to kill people, but why does she begin her training so late in the game? She could have showed more skill if she had been trained for years. What happened in all that time? It almost seems that the middle of the movie was thought up first and they slapped together a beginning and an end. The end wasn’t confusing, but didn’t leave me feeling accomplished. The ending was honestly something I’d expect more from a TV show than a movie. So much is left unexplained that you end up questioning the entire experience.

That all being said, I enjoyed the dialog for the most part. I found most of the actors to be spot on, but Veronica felt off. Breslin’s role never clicked for me. Her choreography was well done and I was impressed at her fighting scenes, though. I enjoyed the glimpses into each character, which didn’t drag me down with unnecessary details; just enough to gain a small bit of understanding and intrigue.

I would like to tell you exactly how I feel about the movie as a whole, but, as I sit here typing this, all I can tell you is that I’m indifferent. I neither liked nor disliked the movie, which is an uncomfortable feeling, since I enjoy passing judgement in this manner. So, I leave you with a mostly well acted, but rushed story with good choreography?

I don’t know. Watch it for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments below!

WintersOver4

Review: The Witch (2016)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2016 by Xander Woolf

Written and Directed by: Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Release Date: Feb. 19, 2016

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The Witch was a much anticipated indie horror film that has won six awards from six separate film festivals, including the London Film Festival and the infamous Sundance Film Festival.

What’s it about?
The Witch follows a teenage girl by the name of Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) and her family in 1630s America. The family is forced out of the town in which they lived and made to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere. When strange and horrible things begin to happen, the highly religious family suspects witchcraft is involved.

Here’s the trailer:

What did I think?
I was so excited to see this movie, especially after Stephen King praised it so highly. I tried for months to get a screener from the film maker, but received no reply. After so many festival wins, though, I’m not surprised.

To be completely honest, I didn’t find the film to be scary. That’s not to say it isn’t a brilliant film, I’m just not afraid of witches or the threat of witchcraft. That being said, the film did a majorly good job in building the suspense and surprising me in the end.

The plot itself was thorough and well constructed. The Witch is a brilliant portrayal of the very real fears that religious Americans in the early 1600s had. There wasn’t one part where I thought, “But what about…?” There were no holes. Instead, I was intrigued from the very first moment to the last.

The actors did an amazing job, as well. They each handled the older language well and were believable in their many flaws. I did have a bit of an issue understanding a lot of what they said, so I would love to watch it over again with some subtitles, but I was still able to follow along very well.

The ending shocked me, to say the least, but I won’t elaborate as to avoid spoilers.

Do I recommend it?
Oh yes, I do. Even if I didn’t find it scary, plenty of other people did. It’s got everything historical horror should have: realism, suspense, wonder and a dab of the unknown. Go watch it for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments below!

wolfout

Review: The Invitation (2016)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2016 by Xander Woolf

Dir. by: Karyn KusamaThe-Invitation-Poster-Large_1200_1744_81_s
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman
Release Date: April 8, 2016

When it comes to parties, I don’t understand the appeal. I mean, you’re surrounded by a bunch of people, your hosts are too busy hosting and you just want to find a place where you can be by yourself and not talk to anybody. Well, imagine if this party was being thrown by your ex-wife and her new husband at the house where you experienced the worst trauma of your life and something’s not quite right.

What’s it about?
Will (Marshall-Green) and his new girlfriend (Corinealdi) attend a dinner party at his former home. While dealing with the emotions seeing his home brings up, he starts to believe that his hosts, Eden and David (Blanchard and Huisman), may have more sinister intentions than just sharing a few glasses of wine.

Here’s the Trailer:

What did I think?
The Invitation starts off like any other party horror film, with the main characters driving in. Set in Los Angeles, the house is, of course, separated from the street by a gate, as most houses here are. This gives the audience the feeling that the guests are locked in while the rest of the world is locked out. Being locked in is a very big aspect of the film, as they mention it many times. It adds tremendously to the suspense.

The characters are interesting and funny. I found that my friend and I were the only people who were laughing in the theater. Lines like “This is LA, everyone’s weird” were really what set us off. We live in LA, we’ve experienced how true that statement is. Really, we just enjoyed how the characters interacted with each other. This was a group of friends who were seeing each other for the first time after two years. Laughs were had by all, not just us.

The cinematography was beyond amazing for an indie film. The way the visual effects mirrored what was happening in Will’s head – flashbacks, overwhelming emotions, etc – was just phenomenal. It really helped me, as an audience member, get to know this character much better. I wanted to cry for him, look out for him. I was afraid for his safety, which is really what horror is all about.

The actors all did a great job. The film dealt heavily with loss, paranoia and holding onto the past, which could be seen through the actors’ portrayal of their characters. Blanchard and Huisman played off each other extremely well while Marshall-Green excelled as the suspicious loner type. I would have liked to see more interaction between Kira (Corinealdi) and each of the characters. She’s sort of just there – Will’s accessory – and I would have liked to see her character fleshed out a bit more.

Do I recommend it?
If you can find it at a theater near you, go for it. It’s indie horror at its finest. It reminded me of quite a few of my favorite films – Truth or DieHouse on Haunted Hill (the original), Knock Knock – but still managed to be original. It’s definitely worth checking out.

wolfout