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

The ABC’s Of Death


Viewed – 03 April 2014  Netflix

This anthology horror epic pits 26 directors with a task of creating a short film showcasing a death for a different letter.  A rather intriguing concept I’ll admit, and it got me wanting to see just what these collective minds might come up with.

ABCsofDeath

So what you get here are basically a series of films from various countries, mostly horror themed, but not all, exploring such things as mutilation, murder, vampires, Nazis, lesbians, rituals and sex … with a bucket-load (no sorry, swimming pool full…) of blood and guts, an ample dose of nudity, some pretty sick ideas (the one segment featuring two men strapped to chairs and forced to masturbate) as well as some fairly clever direction, animation and special effects.  It’s an assault on not just your senses, but on your stomach, your taste and decency and your limits as a movie lover.  Directors such as Xavier Genz (Frontiers), Ti West (House Of The Devil) and Ben Wheatley a (Sightseers) are the only names I personally recognised, and this does have the power to disturb as well as offend and puzzle.  It’s generally a pretty f***ed as a whole and only has very limited appeal outside of extreme cinema enthusiasts … but for every bafflingly odd entry (death by farting?), there’s a pretty cool or twisted one right after it.

Uneven, but in my opinion strangely entertaining.

Verdict:  3 /5

You’re Next


Viewed – 15 February 2014  online rental

One horror I had heard good things about and wasn’t a supernatural fright fest (shudder) or a remake.  This has a wealthy family gathering together in their secluded mansion(!) for some occasion; three brothers, a sister and various girlfriends and boyfriends.  Now as shown in the opening scene, some masked killers like to break into houses and slaughter the inhabitants, leaving the eerie message ‘you’re next’ written in blood for the next intended victim to see.  Not a bad set up and fairly familiar territory if you’ve seen movies like The Strangers.

you're next

A cast of unknowns (except for an ageing Barbara  ‘Re-Animator’  Crampton and horror director Ti West) are the fodder for the intruders, who are seen wearing weird animal masks and slaying people in increasingly gory but not all that inventive ways (bar a fun wire trick).  The acting is amateurish, and most of the characters fairly unlikable even if a gutsy heroic female quickly proves the most interesting (with good ‘Nancy out of A Nightmare On Elm Street’ DIY survival skills).

Director Adam Wingard (V/H/S) delivers some effective shocks and has put together a competent if unsurprising horror with lashings of gore, a touch of nudity and lots and lots of screaming.  A little more personality thrown around would have been a bonus and sometimes characters acted with alarming stupidity (lets go and have a lie down whilst house is being attacked by psychopaths??) … but if you’re after a slasher that doesn’t hold back and with a couple of fun twists … this still does the job.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

The Innkeepers


Viewed – 26 June 2012  Blu-ray

Prior to the actually rather great House of the Devil, I had no prior knowledge of talented director Ti West.  Yet with the memory of that movie still clear in my mind and how effective an homage to late seventies / early eighties horror it turned out to be, I decided anything next by this man was a must see.

Two employees at a hotel on the eve of the place closing down for good, begin investigating the chequered history and reports of hauntings over the years, determined to find evidence of a ghostly presence.  This simple set up with two likable leads makes way for an absorbing, tension filled movie that’s all about building up the creep-factor before hitting you in the face when the real frights start to happen.  It’s an old-fashioned technique and viewers used to being made to jump every five minutes and expecting lashings of gore and violence, may feel restless during this admittedly slow and lengthy build up – but this is a movie that rewards patience, and along with Ti West’s assured, classy direction that makes every corridor, camera angle and whisper unnerving, once the shit-hit-the-fan – I was suitably scared.

The two actors playing the employees (Sara Paxton & Pat Healy) were very natural and convincing, and a (shockingly) aged Kelly McGillis (Top Gun) was also good as a psychic hotel guest.  Some of the back story surrounding the spirits and the hotel was a tad vague however, and also the first half was possibly too gentle.  Although it didn’t particularly build on what was achieved with House of the Devil, and to an extent remains inferior, this still marks out Ti West as one of the better horror directors around, and overall was a satisfying and very effective experience.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The House Of The Devil


Viewed – 21 February 2011  Online rental

I’ve made no secret of my almost obsessive love of the horror genre.  For me there is little that compares to the atmosphere, the thrills and the pure adrenaline of a good horror movie, and some of the best movies ever made in my opinion, have come from that genre.  So naturally this throwback to late seventies / early eighties chillers came as an easy proposition for me.

Newcomer Jocelin Donahue plays struggling student Samantha, who applies for a job as a babysitter to an ageing couple at a house in the middle of the countryside (!).  Now despite the concerns of her best friend after the couple turn out to be more than a little strange, Samantha accepts the job, spending an eventful evening at the creepy house.

Directed by relative newcomer Ti West, this shockingly authentic retread of early eighties horror borrows heavily from the likes of The Exorcist, Suspiria, Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen.  Tension is gradually built up, helped by an eerie score and superbly shot camera work that makes every shadow and corridor unnerving, and when the shocks come, this viewer was left really shaken.  Ti West’s movie may offer little new to the genre, but he certainly knows how to make an effective and gripping experience, that thankfully delivers when it needs to and holds back long enough to make you a nervous wreck.   It may feel rushed at the end, with some confusing moments and a little too much build up, but these are small gripes for what is otherwise an impressive ‘celebration’ of a genre back when it really had some balls.

Verdict:  4 /5