Tag Archives: Horror film

A Quiet Place (2018)

6 Apr

Hot off the heels of its SXSW debut comes John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place. A title that might as well be taken literally, as Krasinski’s film is indeed a muffled one, set in a post-apocalyptic future where creatures with super-listening abilities have taken over humanity by detecting the slightest of noises and hunting humans as their prey. This forces all survivors to live in near silence, communicating only by sign language and taking a variety of precautions to minimize any form of sound.  Krasinski stars alongside his wife (Emily Blunt) as an unnamed couple with three small children, one of which is deaf (Millicent Simmonds). Together they must adjust to their new way of living or become the latest victims to be devoured by CGI monsters.

A Quiet Place starts out well enough by introducing us to the family through a series of visual cues. It doesn’t take long before we realize what happens when things aren’t so quiet in Krasinski’s quiet place, and part of the fun lies in seeing the intricate, almost ritualistic precautions our protagonist has established in order to keep his family safe. After a dramatic midpoint however, the film slowly becomes distilled to a paint-by-numbers horror that’s littered with genre trappings.  As with all horror films, one should check his or her disbelief in at the door, but there comes a time in A Quiet Place where a series of increasingly questionable scenarios stops being scary and starts becoming laughably absurd.

Krasinski, mostly known as Jim from The Office, is pulling double duty as actor and director, though he isn’t really given a lot to work with in the dramatic department other than play your typical Overprotective Dad. Blunt also falls victim to a cookiecutter character, though she amps up the horror well enough to hold tension through some of the film’s creepiest moments. A minimalist story like this would greatly benefit from being rooted in more complex character work but Krasinski is so devoted to his Shut-Up-Or-Be-Killed mantra that we hardly see any dialogue take place other than variations of  “Shhh! the monster is nearby…”

There is a lot to work with here and Krasinski shows promise behind the camera; a few indoor scenes are very well-composed resulting in effective claustrophobic tension and both performances from the child actors are solid. But the film keeps visiting familiar territory too often, so it comes as no surprise that when A Quiet Place tries to go off with a bang (both literally and figuratively) it ends up feeling more like a quiet sizzle.

It boasts a few well-crafted pieces of minimalist tension, but implausible story elements and an overreliance on horror tropes prevent A Quiet Place from being anything more than generic (but still kinda spooky) fare. 

Rating: 6.3/10 

Film Recipe: SignsIt Comes At Night + Don’t Breathe 

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The Witch (2015 Sundance)

18 Feb

Zombies and Vampires may come close, but no horror archetype has been represented and caricatured in cinema quite like that of a witch. From The Wizard of Oz to Harry Potter, to Monty Python, we have been enchanted by the mysterious figure. I walked into the “The Witch” thinking I had seen just about every form of witches out there. I was so wrong.

Directed by Robert Eggers, and based of the real-life accounts of 16th century New England puritans, The Witch tells the story of a small puritan family who have recently been banished from their immigrant village on account of religious blasphemy.  William, Katherine, Thomasin, Caleb, Jonas, and Mercy must now fend for themselves by raising a farm in the middle of a forsaken (and possibly haunted) swampland. Without the aid of any nearby villagers, the family is faced with a terrifying ultimatum: either grow food or starve to death.  When crops fail to sprout however, William (Ralph Ineson), the family patriarch, suspects his children have been involved with witchcraft and dabbling in occult affairs. Members of the family then begin one by one to descend into a terrifying spiral of religiously-fuelled madness and savagery.

Part supernatural horror, part paranoid thriller, The Witch is a genuinely spooky take on the occult and the terrorizing effects religious devotion can have on one’s psyche. Thankfully, it is a meticulously crafted as it is terrifying, making The Witch the most artistically minded horror since 2014’s Under The Skin.

The Witch is one of those rare films you just don’t watch but experience; you can feel the sense of impending dread seeping out from the screen as you watch characters slowly peel back the mystery and evil that exists within the nearby woods. Boasting an immaculate production design that effectively recalls the early 1600’s, the film accurately recalls a time and place when religious paranoia fueled all aspects of life.  The film’s dialogue is even written word-by-word from historical transcripts and rendered by the actors in heavy, old-english accents. This kind of attention to detail might throw some viewers off (especially those with an aversion to period pieces) and the slow timing during the film’s first act ensures only those with a bit a patience will brave the film’s nightmarish climax.

This film is dark – extremely dark – figuratively and literally, (I doubt some scenes will even be visible when screened in a lightened room) which adds immensely to its haunting quality. Dimly lit landscapes covered in impenetrable greys add a surreal and menacing atmosphere. With one hell of an unsettling score, The Witch creates subtle psychological tension from the things we don’t see onscreen rather than relying on tiring jump scares.

 

Bottom Line: The Witch is a throwback to the great horror films of the 70’s, but delivered in such a visceral fashion that the ultimate effect is hard to shake off; I literally had dreams (nightmares?) about this thing weeks after seeing it.

 

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: The Wicker Man (1973) + The Shining (1980) + The Exorcist (1973)

Goodnight Mommy (2015)

11 Sep

It’s been the quite the year to be a horror movie fan. From fear-inducing breakout indies like It Follows to horror-comedies like What We Do In The Shadows, to upcoming releases from horror veteran directors like M. Night Shyamalan or Guillermo Del Toro, it seems like we have entered into some new genre reconnaissance. Sure, there will always be the thoughtless franchise sequel or reboot looking to make a quick  cash grab (I’m looking you, Poltergeist), but one look at A24’s new trailer for The Witch shows there is still original quality material to get scared for.

And the trend is spreading outside of North America too. In fact, many of the decade’s best genre films have come from different places in the Middle East,  South Asia or Europe. The new German psychological thriller Goodnight Mommy from directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz fits into the latter camp. Taking its cues from European neo-realist directors like Lars Von Trier and Michael HanekeGoodnight Mommy tells the story of a mystery surrounding a particular dysfunctional family consisting of The Mother (Susanne Wuest) and her twin sons Elias and Lukas (played by real-life twins Elias and Lukas Schwarz). The trio are isolated in a massive, upper class home nestled deep in the German countryside. It’s unclear at first exactly what has happened to this family; we do know the mother’s face appears to have been replaced by a gruesome medical bandage after an operation, and the two boys have some sort of terrifying preoccupation with collecting cockroaches…

The performances from the young twins, though mostly silent, are hauntingly genuine and give the film a launching pad to explore the dynamics of three characters forced to share the same physical and psychological spaces. Slowly and quietly, the film transforms into a walking daytime nightmare – the living, breathing, kind of a nightmare you can not wake from. The end results are raw, disturbing and authentically scary.

A tight slowburn, the film is expertly paced to reveal only the smallest pieces of information when the audience needs it. Goodnight Mommy relies heavily on atmosphere and tone, which Fiala and Franz have crafted to a fine degree. It’s enough to discourage viewers accustomed to constant jump scares and gore, but Goodnight Mommy is too sophisticated for its own good, much so that when the violence does arrive, it is extremely unsettling.

Bottom Line: While its slower pace might not be for everyone, Goodnight Mommy is a quiet but satisfying artistic examination of loneliness and fear with enough depth and emotion to make second viewings an absolute necessity.

Rating: 8/10

Film Recipie: Vic + Flo Saw A Bear (2013) + Dogtooth (2009) + Michael Haneke 

 

The Babadook (2014)

15 Jan

We are all familiar with the scenario: a young boy with an overactive imagination becomes terrified of the monster underneath his bed, and rushes to his mother for a therapeutic bedtime story. But what if this imaginary monster actually becomes real? This is the set up for a new Australian horror flick premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival entitled The Babadook. Our protagonist, Sam, is terrified of monsters. So terrified he is loosing sleep, causing trouble in class, and creating his own sinister weaponry out of household objects as a means of defense. It’s enough to drive his widowed mother, Amelia, into a frantic state of paranoia. As tensions between the two escalate, a new presence called the Babadook makes it’s way into the household which questions the sanity of everyone involved. The film cleverly embraces and deconstructs typical horror film conventions in order to create something new. Though it is hilariously playful and entertaining, it’s also a terrifying psychological thrill in the same vein as films like Black Swan or Rosemary’s Baby. Essie Davis is great as Amelia, but newcomer Noah Wiseman gives an incredibly memorable child acting performance. If you are a horror fan looking for something new, look no further than The Babadook. Just be prepared to have nightmares afterward, and remember to leave the kiddos at home for this one.

Rating: 7/10

Similar to: Black Swan, Rosemary’s Baby, The Loved Ones

The Purge (2013)

5 Jun

It is so refreshing these days to see a horror film get its thrills from a smart concept rather than relentless blood and gore. The Purge, though gaping with plot holes, is brutal, creepy and smart in its own special way.

Now, I don’t mean to say that the Purge is void of all blood and violence – in fact the premise is really built around the opposite idea: create one day out of the year where all forms of crime have virtually no legal consequences.  There are a few cringe-worthy moments of violence here, (most notably during the opening where we see CCTV footage from historical purge nights) but this film works because it leaves the real horror up to the imagination.  Ethan Hawke plays the leading man, and after the success of last years Sinister he proves he can handle the genre well.  There are some great twists and turns in the film, some more predictable than others, and while it does fall into typical horror conventions at points, it is still (surprisingly) thought provoking.

At a tidy 85 minutes, The Purge never overstays its welcome. In fact, there were a lot of ideas in the film that didn’t really get fleshed out like I wanted to, and with the wealth of material and ideas presented here, I wouldn’t be that opposed to a sequel. Which may be the biggest shocker to me above all.

5/10 stars

Similar to: Straw Dogs, Panic Room, When A Stranger Calls

The Loved Ones (2009), The Warriors (1979), Thirst (2009), Lolita (1962)

20 Feb

I’m going to try and update this thing more regularly, even if it’s just a quickie review of something I have seen recently.

I’m also going to try and talk about classics as well as some of the newer stuff I get my hands on.

What I have been enjoying this past week:

The Loved Ones (2009)

– Holy smokes. what a twisted movie. It is not everyday you see a teen horror film that is so chilling, disgusting and fun.  After seeing last year’s Snowtown, I know for certainty that when it comes to the disturbing and macabre, Australians do it best. While it has it’s cliche’ moments and becomes a bit predictable, there are enough twists and WTF moments to make this stand out among others of the genre.

Similar to: Hostel,The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Snowtown

Rating: 6/10 

The Warriors (1979) 

– I finally got around to seeing this cult classic and, while it is a bit slow at first, The Warriors was an overly entertaining and satisfying movie. The stylized story about gangs in a post-modern NYC goes places I wasn’t expecting and the ending was fantastic. Also a huge fan of the film’s score and wonderful costumes.

Similar to: A Clockwork Orange, Brick, 

Rating: 7/10

Thirst (2009) 

I absolutely loved this movie.  Park Chan-wook is no doubt one of the best directors working today, and he demonstrates his knowledge and passion for filmmaking perfectly in Thirst.  The story revolves around a priest-turned-vampire who is desperately trying to tame his appetite for bloodshed while at the same time helping a family in need. The film is incredibly unpredictable and beautifully shot. If the thought of blood grosses you out, you are better off avoiding this entirely, but if you have a thirst for the dark and disturbing – of if your tired of seeing the same old vampire movie – give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed.

Similar to: Let The Right One In,  Oldboy,

Rating: 8/10 

Lolita (1962) 

Finally managed to see Stanley Kubrick‘s iconic romance story about a man who falls for his landlord’s daughter.  Lolita is a superbly-writted drama and overall great film (but with a mastermind like Kubrick, what can you expect?).  The performances felt real and the characters are complex and interesting. Though it clocks in at over 2 hours the film never drags and you become immersed in the riske’ relationship between our protagonists.  I couldn’t help but thinking the entire time “how did they get away with filming this in 1962?”

Simmilar to: Eyes Wide Shut,  The Apartment, The Graduate 

Rating: 9/10 

so thats that. Any recommendations you have let me know! 🙂