Poltergeist


Viewed – 25 June 2016  Netflix

I approached this fairly open minded despite my general dislike of remakes to classic horrors.  However my memory of the original Steven Spielberg penned / Tobe Hooper directed Poltergeist is cloudy at best.  A family move into a house in a nice neighbourhood and soon find themselves troubled by weird goings on.  Yes, it’s nothing at all new and is pretty much following the blue-print of a wealth of other horror movies such as The Conjuring or anything with restless spirits in it.

Poltergeist

However with a likeable cast headed by Sam Rockwell (Moon, The Green Mile) and decent production values I still found myself entertained.  In an attempt to bring the idea into the modern era we get ghostly apparitions tinkering with cell phones and flat screen TVs as well as electricity and lighting to interesting effect.    There’s even a sequence with a drone robot going into a portal that proves pretty creepy.  Yet the movie’s key failing is not having any genuine scares (sorry, but clown dolls…again?) and apart from an alarming scene with a drill…it stays decidedly family-friendly throughout.  Good use of CGI and a fun if clichéd appearance by Jared Harris (Mad Men) kept me intrigued and some fun ghost pranks like kids being dragged up a staircase or a muddy puddle with a hand coming out of it made this a fun if uninspired evening’s viewing.  Characterisation was particularly lacking however (the parents are unemployed…but can still afford a swanky house!!?), the little girl as the focus of the movie just basically said her lines (with the blandest ‘they’re here’ ever delivered) and some better atmosphere wouldn’t have gone amiss instead of a reliance on effects and action.

I’m an old-school horror devotee and yes this left me wanting, but if you’re not as fussy as me or that keen on more hard-core frights … this was a competent if unimaginative remake that may still be worth your time.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

The Conjuring 2


Viewed – 16 June 2016  Cinema

(Updated 22/06/2016).  The first movie in what appears to be growing into a horror franchise really impressed.  I was quite late to watching it but so glad I did even though supernatural ghost-story fair usually freaks me out.  But director James Wan nailed an old fashioned concept and delivered a truly unnerving and frightening experience.  So sitting down to the sequel I was both excited and a bit on edge.  Early word had it that this was going to be even scarier … and once again explored a based-on-fact true story this time set in Enfield, England in the late seventies.  Paranormal investigators Ed & Lorrain Warren (Patrick Wilson & Vera Farmiga) are called into investigate a series of strange happenings at a family home where the youngest daughter seems to be the focus of a restless entity.

MK1_5272.dng

As a UK resident this was an immediately relatable and authentic setting for a horror movie.  With recognisable east-end cockney accents, along with a street not unlike one I grew up on, I was transported back to my childhood, at least spiritually.  However this is a James Wan movie and soon the tension builds and the scares are brought on so we get freaky things going bump in the night, eerie corridors, moving furniture and a ghostly, malevolent old man.  It’s effectively creepy and unnerving but not quite as under-your-skin as Conjuring #1, relying a bit too much on jump-scares.  A prologue detailing the Warren’s involvement in the infamous Amityville house sets the tone and the involvement of a ghostly, demonic nun definitely disturbs.  However with a 2hr+ run time, the encounters do get a bit repetitive, and a boogie-man sequence that plays on childhood fears threatens to turn the movie into something else entirely.

Performances however are decent across the board especially the young actress playing tormented child ‘Janet’ (Madison Wolfe), as well as her struggling mother.  Yet this is also Wilson & Farmiga’s movie and they again add plenty of emotional weight to proceedings.  Wan cranks up the thrills especially towards the end but a bit like the last movie things wrap themselves up too easily.  However throughout I was nervously gripped and with the backdrop of a true story in mind this still made for an above average experience.  Recommended.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Krampus


Viewed – 26 April 2016  online-rental

I can’t say these days I’m really a Christmas person and well, stopped watching Christmas themed movies a while back.  It’s something about the traditions, the schmaltz and the build up that mostly leaves me cold.  However outside of Christmas is watching a Christmas movie wrong?  Well I did it anyway, thankfully this one spins such age old traditions on their head.

krampus

A dysfunctional family are getting together to spend Christmas eating, getting drunk and arguing.  There’s a few stereotypes, such as the moody teenage daughter, the annoying brother in law, the creepy grandma and the wise beyond his years little kid.  It wear’s its clichés with pride however and perfectly sets the tone for a decidedly old-school yarn – with a bit of a sting in it’s tale.  You see said kid has lost all faith in the spirit of Christmas and just wishes his family were ‘like how they used to be’ and then suddenly, there’s a power cut, the town is blanketed in snow and something is lurking in the shadows.

For this one think Gremlins, a clear inspiration with a smattering of Critters and Poltergeist for good measure.  We get demonic Gingerbread Men, a mutated jack-in-the-box and the Krampus itself; a horned, hooved and cloaked monster.  I had a ball with this.  It’s very 80’s in its look and feel, and the cast of mostly b-list actors (with Toni Collette of Sixth Sense and Muriel’s Wedding fame) all do a good job of portraying their caricature-styled roles.  Along with a fun animated flashback to when one character first met the titular demon, this is packed with energy and creativity.  The reasoning behind why shit-goes-down initially seemed a bit ‘really?’, and that final scene felt like a cop-out.  And yes, it could have been scarier (it still managed to be creepy in the right places) and more violent … but as a fairly audience-friendly horror this still managed to deliver a quality evening’s viewing that’s worth checking out Christmas or not.

Verdict:  4 /5

Insidious


Viewed – 03 May 2011  Cinema

I wasn’t expecting this.  Going completely blind into this one, and knowing nothing but the fact it was directed by Saw’s James Wan.  So what would you expect?  Clever twists?  Wall to wall gore?  Then I hope you are sitting comfortably.  A young couple with two boys and a baby girl, move into one of those clichéd big-ass American houses that seems creepy from the off set.  Of course it’s not long until things start going bump in the night and weird shit begins to go down.  I know what you’re going to say, this is just like Amityville or Poltergeist, which was certainly my impression, but as the story progresses it takes a much more weirder and disturbing path, and to say it scared the hell out of me, well…

Starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, along with an appearance by the increasingly freaky Barbara Hershey (just see Black Swan, you’ll know what I mean), this is well executed and incredibly effective, with jump-scares that don’t take the viewer for an idiot, and a nail-biting tension, helped by the eerie lighting and mostly hand-held camera work, that kept this viewer permanently nervous.  Ok, some moments of comedy seem out-of-place and towards the end the movie did sink into an extended Ghost Train ride, but by then you’re already glued, and in a crowded genre of torture porn gore flicks, sequels and remakes, this was a breath of fresh air, and shows that James Wan clearly didn’t fluke Saw and his follow-up, Death Sentence, making him one of the most assured horror-talents in the business.

Verdict:  4 /5