Lights Out


Viewed – 08 September 2016  Cinema

I was certainly intrigued by this concept.  A malevolent spirit that disappears in direct light but is deadly in the dark, who seems to be haunting a small family, that of a single mother and her little boy.  When said boy turns to his older, rebellious sister for help after one too many strange goings on, soon an investigation ensues … subsequently causing the family to look into their own past in the process.

lights-out

Whilst fairly simple in it’s idea I did find this pretty unnerving throughout what with an evil spirit seemingly capable of jumping out from any darkened corner or darkened room.  The maker’s had a field-day with this idea and I certainly got a kick out of the various ways the idea was explored, complete with an effective ‘shooting at the ghost’ sequence.  However the frights don’t exactly come thick and fast and rely a little too much on loud noises and character reactions more than being scary in their own right … which they are but the other stuff dilutes the experience somewhat.  Also I wasn’t keen on the occasional times the spirit spoke … again diluting the scariness by giving it too much character (the remake of ‘Ring’ had a similar misstep).

The casting is pretty decent, although only Maria Bello is recognisable but suitably unhinged as the troubled mother.  I also thought the young actor playing the boy was above average.  Add to this a complex turn from Teresa Palmer who manages to be more than a typical, moody twenty-something.  The final act is also solid and full of action with some novel twists on the concept.  But I did hope for a bit more light to be shed on the spirit’s origins, which sadly is ignored in place of a rather ballsy ending.  So despite good intentions, this doesn’t quite reinvent the horror movie and is a bit too Hollywood with some of its scares … but regardless this was still a suitably creepy and entertaining experience.

Verdict:  3 /5

What We Do In The Shadows


Viewed – 02 September 2016  Netflix

A satirical fly-on-the-wall documentary following the day to day activities of a group of flatmates … who just happen to be vampires.  It’s a good idea and one I sat down to with intrigue and curiosity.  An unseen film crew are given the opportunity to follow around these ‘creatures of the night’ as they go about their vampire ways, luring innocent humans to dinner parties only to kill and feed on them, or night clubbing only in clubs they get invited inside of and trying to avoid confrontations with the neighbourhood werewolves.

what-we-do-in-the-shadows

This New Zealand effort is cleverly observed, ticking all the vampire mythology boxes and with a group of interesting personalities with each vampire coming from different eras in history, I found myself really getting into this.  The story such as it is doesn’t really have much to it as far as an all that interesting series of situations and we’re basically just watching these creatures squabble, talk about their pasts and do vampire stuff like flying or turning into bats (in a stand out, funny fight scene).  It sits on an uneasy precipice between satire and all-out comedy, and although it leans more towards comedy, its not really that funny despite fairly sharp dialogue and decent performances.  However effects work including some slapstick gore and the aforementioned flying and transforming is done well, even if make-up effects are more miss than hit.

Overall this was a quirky idea that worked mainly down to it’s cast and less down to it’s structure or writing; like the maker’s had a great idea but were not entirely sure what to do with it.  That being said, this is worth seeing basically because it’s an original take on a very familiar subject.

Verdict:  3 /5

The Boy


Viewed – 30 August 2016  Online rental

Taking one look at the poster of this intriguing horror conjured up memories of the Chucky franchise.  Yet, my liking of said psycho doll aside, I’m happy to report this doesn’t quite go down that road.  Lauren Cohen of The Walking Dead plays Greta, an American woman fleeing an abusive relationship who comes to England to accept a job as a Nanny but soon finds out she’s not looking after an eight year old boy called Brahms, but that of a life size porcelain doll.  However once the elderly couple who hire Greta decide to leave on a trip, strange things start to occur.

the boy

Lauren Cohen, one of the more diverting actors from the aforementioned Walking Dead is easily up to the job and her blend of Hollywood good looks and likeable demeanour suited her character well.  The doll that takes centre stage is also undeniably creepy and his milky white face and staring eyes create the desired effect.  However despite some fun plays on this viewer’s preconceptions and good support from Rupert Evans as a local delivery guy, all good work is almost undone when the movie descends into typical horror movie territory in the final act.  I also noticed more than a few tricks being pulled from the horror movie cliché bag; the dream sequence, the false jump scare etc.  No bad thing really and makes for a fun experience, but along with a twist that made me puzzle over the entire premise (and not in a good way) – I was ultimately disappointed.

That being said, with a suitably creepy old English house, Lauren Cohen’s plucky (if by the numbers) performance and earlier scenes creating plenty of tension – this still proved effective.  So maybe give this a go, especially if unlike myself you’re not too demanding when it comes to your latest horror fix.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Baskin


Viewed – 27 August 2016  Online rental

Every now and then I feel up for a nasty little horror movie and have a pretty strong threshold of what I can endure with movies like Hostel and Saw standing out as good examples of the more extreme side of horror.  However it’s often the case that horror from foreign countries can push that envelope further as witnessed in the disturbing classic Martyrs.  So sitting down to this Turkish entry I was both excited and a little nervous.

baskin

A group of cops, hanging out at a late night restaurant, are called to an emergency at an old, abandoned police station in the middle of nowhere.  So sets up a night of terror, hallucinations and a descent into hell as the cops try to make sense of an increasingly bizarre and freaky situation.  Director Can Evrenol has gone on record as saying he was influenced by the movies of such Italian horror auteurs as Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, and if like me you’re at all familiar with either director, it’s in full force here; Argento’s decidedly weird colour palettes of blues & reds (and great use of music) … Fulci’s dream-logic narrative and revelling in gore etc.  This is less a movie about story, traditional structure and more about atmosphere, style and freaking out (or repulsing) the viewer.  In such respect it works wonders and jumps in time, dreams and reality whilst at first jarring, soon created a personality all it’s own, and I began to just go with it, awaiting the next nutty development.

This is pretty messed up stuff; satanism, lashings of blood, graphic throat slits, and at the centre of it all the horribly disturbing looking ‘Father’.  I won’t go into any more of what happens but rest assured this one is not for the easily offended or squemish (and it gets pretty sick) but definitely a movie for gore-hounds and those that like their horror to punch them in the face until they can’t take no more.  Yet it could have been scarier, and as there is little reason or logic to anything, I was left not really caring about any of the characters.  With that said, I still applaud the director for nailing a very effective style and delivering an ‘experience’ not easily forgotten.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Witch


Viewed – 12 August  Blu-ray

Usually each year there’s one horror movie that gets hyped up by the media as being the scariest movie of the year or words to that effect.  This is one such movie, although I usually take such hype with a pinch of salt.  After all I’ve been stung in the past (cough … The Blair Witch Project … cough).

the-witch-thomasin

Set in New England sometime in the 17th century, a deeply religious family are banished from their plantation after the father’s belief’s don’t concur with that of the town elders, and so they set up home on a small farm complete with a horse, a couple of lambs and a black goat called Phillip.  However one day their baby boy vanishes mysteriously following eldest daughter Thomasin playing with him, and superstition and paranoia creep in.

The_Witch_WilliamThis slow burning, decidedly creepy movie boasts several excellent performances especially from Anya Taylor-Joy as pubescent daughter Thomasin and Ralph Ineson as struggling father William.  As crops fail and fears of what lurks in the woods build, I was thoroughly drawn in.  It’s a simple tale told with gradual intensity and authenticity.  Even the dialogue is accurate, old-English which some viewers (myself included) may take a bit of getting used to (think a less poetic Shakespeare).  However as the plot develops it’s clear this is exploring some very dark stuff … freaky religious imagery that seriously disturbs and evil that may or may not be all in the family’s heads.  The ending especially is one of the most unnerving conclusions to a movie I’ve seen in a long time and left me shaken.

Writer & Director Robert Eggers has crafted a unique experience of a movie, not really like anything else around right now and fills it with gorgeous photography and foreboding atmosphere.  It won’t be for everyone however; it’s dialogue is tough, it’s slow and it’s not really about gore or jump-scares (although there’s a stunning one towards the end).   Yet for me, somewhat burnt out on the usual horror subjects like masked killers and haunted houses … this was refreshing and incredibly effective.

Verdict:  4 /5