Archive for serial killer

Review: Hush (2016)

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


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.


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.


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.



Review of Everlasting (2016)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on November 27, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Written and Directed by: AnthonyPOSTER STAR DONE Stabley

Starring: Valentina de Angelis, Adam David
Release Date: February 10, 2016

When I first saw the trailer for Everlasting, I couldn’t wait to see it. Despite the fact that it’s more of a romantic thriller than it is a horror movie, this film looked unique and beautifully done. Let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

What’s it about?
Matt Ortega (David) travels to Los Angeles from Colorado to confront the serial killer who murdered his girlfriend, Jessie (de Angelis). Along the way, Matt tells the audience Jessie’s tragic story from start to finish.

Here’s the trailer:

What did I think?
Everlasting is disturbingly beautiful. From the very first scene, it’s stunning. Not only is the story itself dark and emotionally moving, but the style in which the movie was shot is unique and aesthetically pleasing. A mix between a found footage horror movie, an investigative documentary and a gothic romance film, Everlasting captures the emotional depth of the characters in an extraordinary way. This allows the audience to see things as they really happen as well as how Matt perceives them.
C - Bai LingThe acting has its rough moments, but overall is very well done. Adam David is able to capture the stoic, emotionally compromised teenager without coming off as angsty or “emo.” You can really see Matt’s pain and determination. Valentina de Angelis is able to be emotionally raw when she needs to be. She is sexy and just the right amount of naive. There are parts in which I feel she is overacting, but this is evened out by how real her emotions are when it counts most.

The aesthetics and the acting would be nowhere, however, if it weren’t for the superbly written script. The characters are well rounded and believable. The dialogue is natural and flows well throughout the whole film. The storyline is refreshing in how different it is from other movies. While we’ve seen the revenge story before, it is usually in the form of an action movie or a gory “torture porn” film. Everlasting puts a spin on that, giving the audience a new

Do I recommend it?
Yes. I honestly do. While I wouldn’t consider it horror, it has the perfect amount of macabre to cause my inner horror fan to be delighted. The plot is tragically unique, the script is well written, the acting is good and the aesthetics are stunning.

red laurelEverlasting was very well received in London at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival, where it debuted for English audiences on November 11. This film can be expected to be released to American audiences in February of 2016. For more information and updates, be sure to visit Everlasting‘s website, like the film on Facebook and follow Super Grande Films on Twitter.


Scream (TV Show)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2015 by Lilliandra Winters

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So, I was extremely reluctant to watch the first season of this show. MTV has a horrible track record for TV shows. I dove into Scream thinking that I was going to be punishing myself for something horrible I had done and forgotten about.

A funny thing happened, though. I don’t regret watching this. It was a lot of the teen drama that you would expect to find in a show on MTV about (*gasp*) teens, but the death scenes really made up for all that high school crap that you have to deal with between brutal murders.

If you have seen the Scream movies, then you understand the premise. For those of you who haven’t, let me enlighten you. Scream is about a killer who is treating his murders like a horror movie. In the movie, they go over a set of rules that is supposed to help the teens stay alive. Of course, they don’t listen and end up dying anyway.

In the show, the rules are much more toned down. There are a few references to them, but not nearly to the scale of the movie. The show becomes more about unraveling the mystery behind why the murders are happening and less about surviving a horror movie. This didn’t hurt the show for me at all. I didn’t expect the show to be exactly like Scream, which isn’t even in my Top 50 of favorite horror movies. It did it’s own thing as much as it could and I enjoyed the twists throughout. I didn’t even have a good notion of who the killer was until the last two episodes. I had suspects and when they finally revealed the killer, I was disappointed that I didn’t see it sooner.

The show was good. It’s not awesome, but it’s good. The season finally left a good amount of closure, but opened so many questions for me. I hope it gets a second season, if only to get my questions answered.

There was a good amount of cheese and the teen drama got a little thick for me at times, but I can’t expect more from a teen drama on MTV. The script wasn’t bad and the acting was mostly decent (I even recognized two actors). I even enjoyed their ‘tribute’ to the Scream ensemble with the white mask and black hood.

If you’re bored and not completely against a teen drama where nearly everyone gets brutally murdered, then you should give it a stab.


Review of “Misery,” a Novel by Stephen King and Movie (1990)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2015 by Xander Woolf

In honor of Stephen King’s birthday this past Monday, September 21, this entry is the first installment of my three-post review trilogy. In this post, I will review not only the novel Misery, but also the movie of the same name.

Novel: Misery, by Stephen King. Published: 1987; Viking Publications.

Movie: Misery (1990). Dir. By: Rob Reiner; Starring: James Caan and Kathy Bates. Currently on Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Horror Movies list.

For those of you who don’t know, Misery, by Stephen King, is about a fairly successful writer named Paul Sheldon who gets into a traumatic car accident and ends up the hostage of Annie Wilkes, a paranoid, manic-depressive shut-in with psychotic tendencies who happens to be Paul’s self-declared “number one fan.” As Paul pieces together what’s happened to him and slowly gets to know Annie’s dark side, the novel becomes more and more intriguing. In fact, I had to force myself to put it down a few times so that I wouldn’t end up having nightmares about Annie Wilkes throwing poisoned sand in my face… or worse.

The novel itself is extremely well-written, as can only be expected of Stephen King. It contains absolutely no typos, which is rare now-a-days, and this reader could tell that every single word was carefully chosen and placed exactly where Mr. King intended. This is crucial to a good horror story, as one misplaced word can disrupt the suspense and quell the reader’s growing fear. But good writing isn’t only made up of carefully chosen, grammatically correct words and punctuation. No, good writing has soul, which Stephen King delivers by the truckload.

The characters are fully formed and well researched. Paul Sheldon is a romance novelist who has houses in New York and LA to show just how successful he is. He has a thorough back story and a distinguishable voice that is maintained throughout the story. Annie Wilkes is a former nurse turned recluse with a mysterious and dark history of death and mental illness. She’s terrifying when she’s angry and almost childlike when she’s happy, which makes her psychosis even more frightening. The key to a good antagonist is the element of surprise. You never know when Annie Wilkes is going to go off.

The novel has just the right amount of suspense to keep the reader engaged until the very end, and the movie is the exact same way. Actually, I’m surprised that the film adaptation is able to capture the exact essence of the novel. Sure, lot of things were changed, as can be expected when a story switches mediums, but the changes seem right. They’re fair, as Annie Wilkes would say.

While James Caan does an amazing job playing Paul Sheldon, I want to focus on Kathy Bates’ version of Annie Wilkes. James Caan was good, but Kathy Bates was phenomenal. Kathy Bates was Annie Wilkes. It can be argued that Kathy Bates is the glue that holds this horrifying story together. She just captures Annie’s psychotic personality and brings her to life, to my horror. Sometimes, when I’m watching a horror adaptation of a book, I pray and pray that the person who plays the villain will be so bad at it that I’m able to laugh. This was not the case with Bates. She was so good that I’m afraid that if I go to sleep, I’ll wake up in that little room with her looming over me.

Whether you prefer to read books or watch movies, I highly suggest Misery in either of her forms. If you prefer to read, take pleasure in King’s easy prose with vivid and horrifying imagery. If you prefer to watch, take pleasure in Kathy Bates’ riveting and frightening performance of Annie Wilkes. Or, if you’re like me, do both and compare, then let me know what you think of it all!


Review of The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Dir. Jonathan Demme; Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins and Scott Glenn
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes’ Top 100 Horror Movies list

There’s not one person in the English speaking world who hasn’t heard of Hannibal Lecter. Whether they’ve watched any of the movies, seen the more recent TV show Hannibal, read the books or simply heard of “Hannibal the Cannibal” by word of mouth, it is highly likely that most people you’ve met have some knowledge of the notorious cannibalistic psychopath. Hell, before I had any knowledge of the books or movies, I thought Hannibal Lecter was a real person who might come to eat me at night. I had nightmares about it. It was a problem.

The Silence of the Lambs was the second movie made from Thomas Harris’ popular book series after Manhunter (1986). Released in 1991, the movie follows Clarice Starling (Foster), an FBI Cadet pulled from the Academy by Jack Crawford (Glenn) and assigned to interact with the convicted Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins). It is Starling’s goal to gain insight into another killer, nicknamed Buffalo Bill (Ted Lavine), through her interactions with the famed cannibal.

This movie is amazing for so many reasons. The first reason is simply: Clarice Starling. Not only is she a strong and independent lead female character, but she’s also a complete badass. Starling is a role model for every girl out there who wants to be a cop or an agent and Jodie Foster played her perfectly. The acting in this movie in general was superb. Anthony Hopkins is the scariest Hannibal I’ve ever seen and Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill is delightfully deranged. Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins both earned their Academy Awards for these roles.

The script has many memorable lines. Even people who haven’t seen the movie have heard “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti” and “It rubs the lotion in its skin or it gets the hose again!” It’s the sign of a good script when, 24 years later, the general population is still quoting it. Not only that, but the level of intelligence displayed by this film is so well done. Hannibal is an intelligently written character designed to enter our worst nightmares. Also, Starling is a well-rounded character who, unlike most female characters of the time, is able to hold up her end of a clever conversation. No wonder they won an Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay.

The Silence of the Lambs deserved its many awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. It’s an extremely well done movie. While the plot itself isn’t exactly scary, the movie introduces one of the most frightening villains of all time, Hannibal Lecter, who would go on to appear in such other films as Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising. He is also the subject of Bryan Fuller’s recently canceled NBC show Hannibal.

If you haven’t seen The Silence of the Lambs – or any of the other Thomas Harris based movies and TV shows – I highly recommend it.


Review of The Raven (2012)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Dir. James McTeigue

Starring John Cusack, Alice Eve, Luke Evans

The Raven is not a horror movie. It is a crime movie disguised as a horror movie meant to fool horror lovers into watching it. This movie is about Edgar Allen Poe’s last few days alive. Poe (Cusack) returns to Baltimore in hopes of marrying Emily Hamilton (Eve), as well as collecting some money from a local Baltimore newspaper, but instead must join Detective Fields (Evans) in solving a slew of grotesque murders based on his infamous short stories.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this movie is not good. Not only is it pretending to be horror, it’s making a mockery of one of the best horror writers of history. They falsely portray Poe as a man who is heroic in nature. We all know that Poe lost his mother and his young wife to Tuberculosis. We all know that Poe was an angry alcoholic. We all know that Poe was grim, desolate and deranged. None of this came across in this movie. Instead, the writers decided to give him a love interest, make him loveable and downplay his many flaws.

I was mainly bothered by the casting in this movie. John Cusack is not Edgar Allen Poe. He’s just not. He doesn’t pass as Poe in any way, shape or form. Literally anybody else could have played him better. His eyes and his voice are far too soft. I can’t take him seriously when he gets angry. I don’t believe that the idea for The Pit and The Pendulum came from his mind. I’m not saying that John Cusack isn’t a great actor – I mean, just watch The Frozen Ground, it’s amazing – but he is not Edgar Allen Poe.

The idea to add the love interest was just a bad one. I know that Hollywood likes to add love to everything they touch – because that’s how you get the women to the theater, amirite?? – but this was just wrong. Knowing what we know about psychology today, it’s just not feasible that Edgar Allen Poe would be as open to new love as he was in this movie. It is said he frequently blamed himself for the death of his mother and his wife. He thought he was cursed. Sure, he courted women, but there’s no evidence to support that he was looking for a second wife. Also, it is unusual that an alcoholic would be able to fall in a love as deep as the love in this movie. It doesn’t make any sense.

The list of what is wrong with this movie is nearly boundless, but I will make one last point before I go. Edgar Allen Poe is brought in by Detective Fields as a consultant, however, he is frequently treated as if he is a member of the force. This isn’t realistic. Poe would not be in the field with his own gun. He would not be expected to apprehend a suspect by himself. It would be different if he branched out on his own to solve the murders, but it’s not like that. It’s almost as if it’s a buddy cop movie. It’s just ridiculous.

All in all, I was really irritated by this movie. I found myself intermittently muttering, “literally anybody else,” and shaking my head. Maybe this movie could be considered decent by someone who wasn’t a fan of Poe before watching it, but that’s not the case with me. I do not recommend it to anyone who calls him/herself a horror fan.