The Conjuring 3


Viewed – 26 May 2021 Cinema

The Devil Made Me Do It

The universe created for The Conjuring franchise, has in my opinion been (mostly) consistent, quality horror. This latest entry is based on the case of Arnie Johnson, who in 1981 was trialled for murder and as his defence, the lawyers said it was demonic possession.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return as real-life paranormal investigators Ed & Lorraine Warren who are called in to aid the defence and prove Arnie was possessed. Along the way they stumble upon a satanic curse linked to other incidents. The central story was intriguing and held my interest and how the movie further explored the Warren’s relationship was welcome. Jump scares were plentiful and for the most part well done, and certain set pieces definitely got the hairs standing up on back of my neck (the morgue scene). Also, how Lorraine Warren’s psychic abilities are shown does get quite imaginative.

Franchise creator James Wan steps down from the directing chair, acting as a co-writer and producer and minus his skill at delivering carefully drawn out atmosphere and scares, this failed to get under one’s skin as much as the previous entries … but still retains high production values (with effective sound design) and strong performances. The weakest of the three movies then, but still well worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

Army of the Dead


Viewed – 25 May 2021 Netflix

Following a zombie outbreak on Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries are hired to venture into the quarantine zone to retrieve a stash of money hidden in an underground vault. Zack Snyder (Justice League) returns to the zombie genre he pretty much reinvented with his well received Dawn of the Dead remake, this time under the guise of a heist movie.

With the director’s brand of stylish visuals and frenetic action, whilst not breaking the mould … this proved a fun experience. Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista heads a mostly unknown cast in this action horror, and proves a likeable lead. A subplot revolving around Bautista’s daughter, who tags along on the heist to rescue the mother of two children … felt a bit forced just to create a father/daughter bonding angle which only complicates an already dangerous mission. Also a sequence involving an army convoy at the beginning, is left unexplained. At 2 and a half hours, this also felt padded out, with needless sequences such as a long bit inside a building sneaking past sleeping zombies.

However the movie does deliver great action, the zombie tiger seen in the trailer is awesome, and as for gore, whilst infrequent, there’s some stand-out moments. The band of mercenaries are also entertaining and have good banter. Overall, not quite the evolution of the zombie flick it’s marketed as, and it does get very silly – but I still came away entertained.

Verdict: Good

Saint Maud


Viewed – 13 February 2021 online rental

A rather talked about British horror from newcomer Rose Glass that has been getting some good word of mouth lately. So of course I thought I’d check it out. This tells the story of Maud, a young woman who comes to work as a full time carer for retired former dancer Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) who is dying of cancer. It soon transpires that Maud is deeply religious and through caring for the woman, decides she may have finally found her ‘calling’.

Not your usual setup for a horror and initially I was wondering if I’d been sold the wrong movie. The portrayal of Maud and her beliefs is intriguing and as the story progresses, quite eye opening and unsettling. I personally am not religious although I believe in spirituality, and some of the things in this woman’s head are troubling. Such as how she self harms in an attempt to please God. Director Rose Glass transports is into Maud’s mind quite quickly and it’s a dark and disturbing place to be. She also fills the movie with a claustrophobic dread, using camera work, lighting and music effectively.

However, there’s only a hint of back story and the movie fails to even remotely explore why Maud is the way she is, which as her actions get crazier makes for a rather unsympathetic character. This is the movie’s only failing … it’s like we’re just getting a small part of the story, and I get it – a lot of what goes on is subjective. Yet performances are solid, especially Morfydd Clark as Maud and where the movie goes is quite shocking. Just a shame it’s mostly surface horror than anything deeper.

Verdict: Good

Cat People


Viewed – 22 January 2021 Blu-ray

I’ve had a yearning to watch some older ‘classics’ of late and have been looking to The Criterion Collection to quench my thirst with a few titles that have caught my eye. This 1942 horror themed drama stars somewhat lesser known starlet Simone Simon as Irena, a woman who believes an ancient curse means that any physical intimacy with a man, means she’ll turn into a black panther and devour him. So naturally when she falls for a charming business man (Kent Smith) who convinces her to marry him … Irena fears her animal side will reveal itself.

The beast within…?

A simple tale with an intriguing premise, this flirts back and forth between the notion that Irena may be some carnivorous creature within, or she’s just sexually repressed. It certainly has something to say about female sexuality, which is bold considering when it was made. It’s also shot with atmosphere to spare, and has three enjoyable performances that drew me in. The story focuses on what becomes a love triangle, and the jealousy that builds especially in the final act made for some effective moments (the swimming pool scene). It’s not a horror in a traditional sense, there’s very little violence or creature effects, and is generally subtle and suggestive. Also despite a short run time, it was quite slow going. Yet I still found myself entertained.

The Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection boasts a 2k restoration that’s detailed and pleasing with striking black & white photography, and an uncompressed mono soundtrack has clear dialogue and effective music cues that aid the often eerie mood. However the big bonus here is a lengthy documentary on famed producer Val Lewton which is narrated by Martin Scorsese and goes in-depth on the man’s career. Add to this a commentary from film historian Gregory Mark, interviews, a trailer and a booklet with an essay from film critic Geoffrey O’Brien. Quality treatment for a somewhat underrated classic. Worth checking out.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

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