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.

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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

Wolf Creek 2


Viewed – 23 September 2014  Online rental

I recall being rather underwhelmed by the popular but fairly lightweight original, and thought it’s lengthy build up to the horror and the reveal of the killer was too drawn out.  In it’s final moments it began to come to life and had at least one stand out, nasty scene (head on a stick!).  So imagine my surprise on reading several favourable reviews of this sequel.

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Outback serial killer Mick Taylor, a bushman if ever there was a bushman in the wilderness of Australia, spends much of his time picking off tourists and back-packers who come to visit the eerie location of a huge crater, supposedly made by a meteorite.  With a fine line in Ozzy lingo and Australian history, he especially enjoys killing foreigners or anyone not well versed in the land of Oz. 

Shot well and with a keen eye for gore and violence, this feels like it’s on the right track, and is a lot more action-packed, with this time Mick being centre stage.  Now unlike the original, the mystery and atmosphere is missing in place of some stand out kills (the cops…).  Also unlike last time around there’s no real time to get invested in the innocent victims before Mick is despatching them.  Now Mick himself, played larger-than-life by John Jarratt is an interesting creation, but because the movie is all focused on him, his clichéd bushman swagger and often comical lines turns many of his scenes into farce (a truck chase to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight … really?), and loses much of his potential menace – like what they did to Freddy Krueger in the Elm Street sequels.  Oh and would it have hurt to get a bit more backstory on him?  Or any for that matter. 

For the ample gore and plenty of energy, this was still fun, but for a horror it relied too much on one liners and in-jokes than actually scaring it’s audience – a big fail in my book.  Hopefully they won’t bother with Wolf Creek 3.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Curse of Chucky


Viewed – 16 August 2014  DVD

I gave up on this series a while back after the embarrassingly bad ‘Seed of Chucky’.  However having enjoyed most of the other movies, that being Childs Play 1-3 and the very entertaining Bride of Chucky … I was willing to give this a go, especially as I had heard it was a back to its routes entry.  A paraplegic woman called Nica, living in an old house with her domineering mother, one day receives a strange package.  Yes someone has sent them a good guy doll, with no note to say who that somebody was. 

Curse-of-Chucky

A very basic premise this may well be and at first I was underwhelmed, but series creator Don Mancini, taking to the director’s chair delivers a well made, stylishly-shot and creepy stalk and slash horror that felt very much like the original.  We get a cute kid who see’s no wrong in a talking psychotic doll, and various supporting characters I enjoyed seeing bumped off one by one (gotta love the death by lap top…).  Some back story to the serial killer Charles Lee Ray was welcome with genre favourite Brad Dourif on fine form, getting more than just a speaking part for a change.  What was the big surprise however was kid sister Fiona Dourif (True Blood), playing wheelchair bound Nica with plenty of tough attitude and also proving the vulnerable heroine due to her disability. 

For a Chucky movie this sort-of reboots a franchise that was disappearing up it’s own arse, even if for a horror it’s packed with clichés, isn’t particularly scary and has a few moments that don’t make sense (the lack of cell phone signal, that post credits bit…).  But mostly this was a lot of fun.

Good to have you back, ya pint-sized little bastard.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Sacrament


Viewed – 01 July 2014  Pay-per-view

Has to be said, I’m becoming quite a fan of relatively unknown horror director Ti West, following the double hits of the unsettling House of the Devil and the gentler The Inkeepers.  This latest offering sees him turning to the found-footage / religious cult sub genres to deliver another gradual build up experience.  A film crew working for an underground TV channel travel to a remote island to report on a religious cult, following the revelation that their photographer’s sister has started living there.

sacrament

This competently acted, slow burning thriller has plenty of shaky hand-held cameras, tense interviews with the locals, and a stand-out performance from Gene Jones as the worshipped cult leader referred to as ‘father’.  Although the material is very familiar if you’ve seen the likes of Red State or Martha Marcy May Marlene, this was still done well and offers the viewer both sides of the coin; a very attractive existence as well as something much more sinister.  The closing moments were tough viewing and pretty disturbing (…the baby) and left me shaken but also impressed with what Ti West had delivered, managing to pull the rug out from under me yet again.

I’d have really liked it to have gone a bit deeper into the inner-workings of the cult and their motivations, but to say any more would spoil it, so basically – this is another decent offering from one of the more interesting voices in horror.

Verdict:  3 /5

Oculus


Viewed – 17 June 2014  Cinema

Some movies it’s good to go into totally blind.  No viewing of trailers, no reading of reviews.  Although I had heard this was meant to be pretty good as far as the glut of supernatural horrors of late, ala Insidious and The Conjuring.  This tells the tale of a young twenty something guy (James Van Der Beek look-a-like Brenton Thwaites) freshly released from a psychiatric hospital following an incident in his childhood.  Reunited with his sister, she reminds him of a promise they made when they were younger, and following an auction, sets up a night of observing what happens in the company of an antique mirror, that may or may not hold within a dormant, malevolent entity.

OCULUS

The movie skilfully and cleverly jumps back and forth from the present and to that fateful night when the siblings were just children, and the events that lead up to the guy’s incarceration.  This is spooky, has some great ideas and two very strong performances, especially from the gorgeous Karen Gillan (yes, former Doctor Who assistant) as the guy’s elder sister.  It plays on your perceptions, twists your head into wondering if what you see is happening or just in the character’s heads, and throughout various red herrings and freaky encounters really got me questioning what was going on.  It’s certainly a horror that keeps you on your toes, and some hallucinations, including a memorable light bulb / apple mix up as well as some Ring-like creepy woman moments all made for a genuinely unsettling experience. 

It doesn’t get as nasty or as disturbing as some horrors can be (probably a good thing), and could be seen as more an exploration of the adverse affects of a childhood trauma and the transition into adulthood.  Yet the always scary concept of a possessed mirror and along with the time jumps … meant this horror fanboy came away rather impressed.

Verdict:  4 /5