Relic


Viewed – 07 November 2020 online rental

A woman gets word that nobody has heard from her mother in a while, so concerned she decides to pay a visit, bringing her daughter along with her. However upon arriving at the elderly woman’s house, it transpires she is missing. As the elderly woman appears to be suffering memory loss and possible dementia going by reminder notes pinned around the house, concern for her safety quickly materialises.

This drama at first seems like a study of a family and the horrible effects of old age. However as it progresses, it appears something more supernatural could be occurring. This is a slow burner but well acted throughout, especially the often dependable Emily Mortimer. It takes its time to get going and much of the ‘horror’ aspects are in the final act, where things turn very weird. However it has a rather tense and creepy tone from the start, isn’t reliant on cheap jump scares to make the viewer uneasy, and plays with one’s imagination effectively.

However a lack of ‘answers’ is frustrating and what that ending is meant to mean, I couldn’t say. Yet as a debut feature, there’s enough promise here to make director Natalie Erika James one to watch.

Verdict: Good

An American Werewolf In London


Viewed – 31 October 2020 Blu-ray

Director John Landis’ 1981 classic remains one of my all-time favourite movies. It’s the perfect balance of horror with comedy and also works as a particularly tragic love story. it also has (still) the best werewolf transformation ever commuted to film, and in this age of CGI overdose I doubt it will ever be beaten. Telling the story of David, an American backpacking in England with his friend Jack, who following a strange encounter with the locals of the ‘slaughtered lamb’, wonders onto the moors, and gets attacked by a werewolf. Sometime later he awakens in a London hospital and begins to have strange dreams and visits from beyond the grave warning him he’s destined to become a hairy beast next full moon.

Beware the moon…

The setup is stuff of horror legend, and is a sort of loose remake of those classic werewolf movies from the 1950s, given a modern twist that still works today, almost 40 years later. The fact the effects work still stands up is very much down to the sheer skill of makeup wiz Rick Baker (who got an Oscar for his trouble). Jenny Agutter is here as a (particularly attractive) nurse who befriends and quickly falls for David and her relationship with the would-be monster is convincing and quite touching. It’s also a snappily paced ride, skilfully jumping from one event to the next, and when it’s funny (the bumbling cops, Jack’s deadpan line-delivery “Have you ever talked to a corpse? It’s boring!”) it never feels out of place. The same goes for when it delivers the horror – somehow it just all works. The music should also get a special mention, with each song title having some mention of the moon, and they are all delivered memorably. This is Landis’ best movie, the tone, those classic sequences (the tube station scene) and a simple concept brilliantly put together makes for not just a great horror movie – but one of the ‘great’ movies.

The Blu-ray limited edition I picked from Arrow Video is a collector’s dream. Housed in a hard case and with specially created artwork, a fold-out poster, art cards and a detailed booklet – that’s just the start. The movie, although grainy boasts a new restoration and is in great shape – with impressive detail along with good colour vibrancy and depth in dark scenes. The soundtrack in a choice of the original mono and 5.1. DTS Master Audio has clear dialogue and especially showcases the music cues. Surrounds also come alive during the climactic Piccadilli Circus sequence. Extras consist of two commentaries; one from actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne, and the other with filmmaker Paul Davis. Add to this several making of/behind the scenes featurettes and interviews with John Landis and Rick Baker, story boards, outtakes etc and this is one impressive package.

Verdict:

(the movie) Essential

(the Blu-ray) Essential

The Babysitter: Killer Queen


Viewed – 17 October 2020 Netflix

I wasn’t exactly blown away with the surprise sleeper hit that was the first movie, but it was still fun if trashy entertainment with a break out turn from Samara Weaving. However it clearly was popular enough to spawn a sequel. Set three years after the first movie, nerdy kid Cole is now in High School and labelled a bit of a nutcase as he told a lot of people about his babysitter’s satanic blood cult. So yeah he’s having trouble fitting in. One day though his best friend invites him to a getaway on a boat out in the wilderness – yeah, isolated in the middle of nowhere, nothing bad is going to happen, right?

If looks could kill…

Directed again by McG (Terminator Salvation) this is trying sooooo hard to be a self-referential horror version of Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It has the crazy editing, video game references, and a funky soundtrack. Oh and plenty of CGI gore. The deaths in the last movie were a major plus, and the same goes here – even if they often look incredibly fake. This is not helped by a script that is painfully unfunny, which really needs to be funny. The cast, with many returning faces from last time, are constantly spouting what they think is clever, pop-culture fused dialogue but it has very forced delivery that just falls flat. It all screams of trying too hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed some of McG’s movies in the past, and his style can work given better material … but this just feels lazy. There’s times when it looks like it’s happening on a cheap sound stage, and I could have sworn one bit looked like terrible green screen, and it even has a jump scare that makes zero sense (a peeing gag). The ending was a slight step up, with an interesting twist – but overall this really wasn’t worth it.

Verdict: Avoid

Incident In A Ghostland


Viewed – 08 October 2020 online rental

Horror fans will possibly draw comparisons between this and disturbing 2008 French horror Martyrs, due to it being from the same director Pascal Laugier … yet that would be unfair as Martyrs is a polarising movie and this, despite similar themes, is a little more conventional. Following a home invasion when she was a teenage girl, successful horror novelist Beth (Crystal Reed) finds herself having to return to the house where the incident occurred after receiving a phone call from her traumatised older sister, who seemingly has never recovered. However once back in the family home, Beth begins to realise the nightmare of that night may not be over.

“We just want to play with dolls…”

Laugier has delivered an intense experience that’s dripping with foreboding atmosphere. It dabbles in the horror conventions of The Texas Chainsaw Masacre and Hostel but also turns such conventions on their head with a strong focus on psychological trauma along with some clever twists. The two characters that invade the family home sent chills, especially the tall thin one with long black hair. The constant imagery of dolls may be a genre cliche but manages to feel freakier than usual, especially with how it plays out.

Creatively shot throughout, with an unflinching tone (even if the score is a tad too in-your-face at times), Laugier does not hold back. This goes for it with a number of frantic, very violent encounters Some of the smaller details do get lost in the chaos at times, with motives and background left to one’s imagination. However as a slightly more mainstream horror, this is probably the director’s best work to date and certainly a must for horror junkies.

Verdict: Recommended

The Invisible Man


Viewed – 04 July 2020 online rental

There have been many interpretations of the Invisible Man story, from old black and white incarnations to John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven movies. There was also a proposed Universal monsters outing starring Johnny Depp that never came to be. So we come to this latest that has The Handmaid Tale’s Elizabeth Moss as Cecilia, a woman who in the opening scene escapes an abusive relationship with wealthy scientist Adrian. However after her ex’s apparent suicide, Cecilia still feels someone is taunting and messing with her. Has Adrian come back from the dead, or is something else going on?

Director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) delivers a clever twist on the stalker thriller, borrowing the blue print of The Invisible Man concept and bringing it bang up to date. It proves for a decidedly unnerving and gripping watch, and plays about with the idea well to really crank up the tension. There are certainly echoes of Hollow Man here with the idea of the enemy being something that can’t be seen, although it’s not quite as visceral as Verhoevan’s underrated entry. It also made me think of Candyman, especially in the second half. Elizabeth Moss is great, as she often is and proves a mesmerising heroine.

Plot-wise its a bit underdeveloped as we learn very little about Adrian, what makes him tick etc. Also the ending is a bit stupid with at least one major lapse in logic. Not helped when the plot raises far more questions than it bothers to answer. That being said this was still thrilling in places with several stand out moments (the restaurant, the attic), aided by decent effects and stunt work. Not quite the full package but worth a watch.

Verdict: Good