It Follows


Viewed – 11 July 2015  Blu-ray

‘I see naked people’

Another recent horror that had gained praise from critics and seemed like something different amongst the slew of remakes and paranormal activity sequels.  This tells the story of Jay, a nineteen year old student who goes on a date with a local guy she’s been seeing.  Only thing is after they have sex he reveals he has passed a curse onto her of some relentless ‘being’ that has been following him.  It’s now going to be following her, and she should not let it touch her and try and pass the curse on herself as soon as she can.

It Follows

This is a cool idea for a horror movie.  It involves the viewer like I haven’t seen in a long time as I found myself watching every part of the screen for someone lurking and following our main character.  Also the frights are mostly well done with only a few being a bit predictable, and there isn’t an over-reliance on jump-scares.  Maika Monroe who was very good in The Guest once again proves herself an actress to watch.  Helps she’s pretty hot too (don’t judge me!).  Supporting cast, which apart from one guy don’t get a lot to do, still felt like real people.  It’s also obvious the whole idea is a not-so subtle metaphor of the dangers of teenage promiscuity (the ‘It’ being perhaps similar to an STD).  The movie also pays welcome homage to late seventies / early eighties horror movies like Halloween and A Nightmare On Elm Street with both it’s camera work and it’s intentionally old-school score.

That’s not to say it’s without fault.  Sometimes the actions of the main character are bizarre to say the least (sleeping on a car bonnet?) and at times the story gets awfully vague, leaving some puzzling moments to your imagination (the guys on the boat). That being said, this still delivered a genuinely unsettling atmosphere and some effective scares … making for a quality evening’s viewing.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Babadook


Viewed – 06 July 2015  Blu-ray

I wanted to watch this critically acclaimed Australian horror for a while, but could I find it to rent?  No.  So I decided it might be worth buying, and hoped it lived up to the reviews.  Amelia, a single mother bringing up a boisterous young boy Samuel, still mourns the death of her husband and the boy’s father seven year’s previous.  One day during a bedtime reading session, the boy takes a mysterious book from his bedroom shelf, which Amelia has never seen before, and subsequently starts to read it.  However the creepy fairy-tale soon sends shivers down her spine and she decides not to finish it.  But her son has other ideas and get’s obsessed with the character of The Babadook.  Is it real, or just in his imagination?

babadook

This effective, slow-burning movie was rich in atmosphere and aided well by some clever camera work and subtle visual effects that helped build plenty of tension.  I quickly got the impression that Amelia might be having a nervous breakdown, and the stresses of Samuel’s behaviour, that became increasingly difficult to control only added to her problems.  It’s a movie that can be read on two levels, that of a possessed book and a demonic spirit, or that of a woman cracking up and losing her mind.  Director Jennifer Kent doesn’t make either viewpoint definite and there’s a lot of clues and suggestions that could have various interpretations … but I’d personally steer towards the latter.  For a horror movie however this plays things fairly safe, get’s quite creepy at times (The Babadook resembles various childhood ghouls) but nothing to keep you awake at night (or spill your popcorn).  The young actor playing the little boy drifts between intentionally annoying to quite likeable, yet Essie Davis as Amelia turns in a very powerful and layered performance that certainly made this movie for me.

Not the full on fright fest reviews (and the sleeve art) will have you believe, but with intelligent direction and a strong lead performance, I was still left rather impressed.

Verdict:  4 /5

Tenebrae


Viewed – 14 April 2015  Blu-ray

When writer Peter Neal arrives in Rome on a routine promotion trip for his latest novel, he becomes the target of a deranged killer who starts murdering beautiful women in the name of his book Tenebrae.   Soon the lines between reality and fiction blur as Neal and the local detectives set out to catch the culprit and prevent more bloodshed.

tenebrae

Now going into a film by acclaimed, controversial Italian director Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria), I will give a word of warning.  He’s not one for casting great actors in his movies and is much more focused on the technical aspects and the twisting narrative.  This 1982 entry is no exception as actor Anthony Franciosa and much of his supporting cast, including John Saxon and Argento’s then-wife Dario Nicolodi are amateurish at best, delivering lines in a particularly wooden and unconvincing manor.  Thankfully then, Argento distracts us with a series of gloriously staged murder set-pieces, arguably some of the best in his career (the stalk and slash of the lesbians especially) and aided by a hypnotic, creepy score by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin, this remains very much an Argento movie.  The look may be simplistic and the acting poor, but for style and a keep-you-guessing plot that throws in a few surprises, including an unforgettable ending … fans of early eighties slasher movies and of the Italian maestro’s work should definitely check this out.

The Blu-ray is packed with extras in this Arrow Video re-release, boasting two commentaries, several interviews and featurettes, a reversible sleeve with newly commissioned art and an in-depth booklet.  Add to this a decent treatment for the film itself.  The picture whilst nicely detailed, is a tad over-saturated (although the garish reds suit the tone of the story) and the sound although only in 2.0 Stereo, is uncompressed so the score sounds particularly good.  Overall, a decent effort for one of Argento’s most notorious movies.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

[REC] Apocalypse


Viewed – 02 March 2015  Blu-ray

What the previous, third entry in this popular cult franchise had in personality, gore and entertainment, it lacked in under-the-skin scares and dread, whilst adding very little to the story.  Oh and why it was called Genesis is anyone’s idea.  However a bride wielding a chainsaw will always get points from me.

rec-apocalypse.jpg

So we come to this fourth and probably final entry in the franchise, as lone survivor Angela; the reporter who managed to get through the horrors of the apartment building in the first two movies, finds herself on a boat surrounded by scientists and the military amongst the regular crew.  Have they managed to contain the virus that caused people to turn into ravenous zombies?  Thankfully this is a return to the more serious, claustrophobic and tension filled tone of the first two movies, dropping much of the schlock of the third, which at times was more comedy than horror.  The hand-held camera approach that worked so well initially doesn’t make a return however but that’s no major loss (apart from causing the title to make little sense) and I still found this pretty nail biting stuff.  Following on from the shock climax of the second movie, I enjoyed the is-she isn’t-she of Angela’s infection, wondering what the scientists are really up to, and why there seems to be a monkey running around.

In Manuela Velasco’s Angela we have a gutsy, suitably sexy heroine who is supported well by some interesting characters, including a geeky tech guy who just happens to be the plucky reporter’s number-one fan.  The movie barely touches on the demonic possession angle of the previous movies however and is much more straight-forward action horror – with a very exciting and intense final act.  Yet by the time we reach this fourth entry, clearly the story is scraping the ideas-barrel … and a parasitic organism just isn’t as scary as possession, despite the franchise’s initial potential.  For a zombie-fest though, I still had a good time.

Verdict:  3 /5

Thir13een Ghosts


Viewed – 31 October 2014  Netflix

So how was I going to celebrate Halloween this year?  Well other than some people dressing up at work, a few trick or treaters knocking my door … the easy option was to settle down with a horror movie.  I was recommended this by a friend and it tells the tale of a family man, still mourning the death of his wife who inherits a house from an uncle he never had anything to do with.  Turns out this uncle was into the occult big-time and went about finding and imprisoning various spirits within his labyrinthine house.  So sets the stage for a haunted house horror with a twist, where the house it’s self is an elaborate puzzle box that said family man and his daughter (the yummy Shannon Elizabeth) and son have to figure their way out of.

13ghosts

The casting here isn’t great.  Mostly TV actors along with Scream’s Matthew Lillard (still as annoying as he ever was) as well and Monk and the girl who liked to run around in her underwear a lot in Scary Movie and American Pie (Elizabeth).  But at least we get a brilliantly designed fairground attraction of a house complete with art-decor stylings and plenty of creepy mystery.  The various ghosts are also quite imaginative and boast some cool make-up effects (clearly where much of this movie’s budget went). 

What is sad however is just how tame it all was, and there’s only really one decent kill and a complete lack of genuine danger (the ghosts are fairly inept at actually harming anyone…acting more like circus attractions).  F. Murray Abraham lends a little bit of thespian weight to proceedings but overall this was a glossy, yet Saw-light sort of experience that failed to bare it’s teeth.

Verdict:  2 /5