Category Archives: Horror

Suspiria

Suspiria (2018)

While I half fucking loved this and half hated it, I do believe this is one of the most interesting films of the year and therefore a success in my eyes. The remake of Dario Argento‘s 1977 original is completely different to its counterpart, in style and in conclusion but it’s still beautiful and grating.

I can safely say that Suspiria (1977) is one of the most unpleasant viewing experiences I’ve ever had and yet it will stick in my mind forever. Much like a lot of Argento’s imagery – but this version is not by Argento so let’s park him here.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino (most recently of Call Me by Your Name), Suspiria Reloaded is also an acquired taste. The film follows ambitious dancer (Dakota Johnson) to a world-renowned (and freaky deaky) dance company and as she settles into the flow of the place, under the stern eye of Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), shit starts to get weird. Like seriously weird and at times incoherent and psychedelic. It’s really better if you just watch it and draw your own conclusions.

There are moments of sheer horror that have stuck with me (looking at you bendy woman in the mirrored dance studio) but there are also parts that feel really flabby. I’m referring to the story arc belonging to Dr. Josef Klemperer (also played by Swinton), a grieving psychotherapist with a missing wife.

I guess the novelty of Swinton playing multiple characters (she also appears as Helena Markos) is interesting but it also jars on me. I wondered why I couldn’t connect to Klemperer before I knew it was Tilda in prosthetics and now I understand it. Dakota Johnson does a decent job as Susie Bannion but there are a couple of scenes I think don’t work for her. Mia Goth meanwhile is lovely, commanding attention whenever she’s onscreen.

Again, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of horror, even if you’re not because there’s a lot to love here. It’s odd and abstract and compelling for the most part – and I most definitely need another viewing.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have you seen Guadagnino’s Suspiria? What are your thoughts?

Behind Again

I’m still reviewing Halloween movies here firmly in December and that’s because I’ve been busy and lazy, a wonderful combination. So I’m going to have to squish some of my To Do list into one post, which I kind of hate but what can you do?

Here’s what I’ve been watching since the end of October:

Halloween

I waited for what feels like forever for this 40th anniversary sequel and… I can’t say I was disappointed. A lot of it doesn’t work, some of it spectacularly (looking at you fake Doctor Loomis/terrible podcasters) but all in all David Gordon Green‘s offering is a lot of fun and that’s what I wanted.

Jamie Lee is dope as the deeply affected, original Final Girl™ Laurie Strode. A lifetime of paranoia has made her into a reclusive survivalist and she is barely holding onto her family as a result. But what happens when all that preparation finally comes to fruition? Well, you’ll find out when Michael Myers busts out of the institution that has held him for the last four decades – and the whole thing is as gory and tense as you’d imagine. Plus, there’s something truly disconcerting about the humanisation of The Shape just before shit kicks off.

My Rating

4.5/5. Probably for nostalgia more than anything. 

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

In my opinion this movie suffers for not featuring enough Jack Black but IT’s Jeremy Ray Taylor does a fine job as a mini version of the man himself. If I’m honest, I don’t remember too much about the plot (I think because I saw The House with a Clock in its Walls right before it and they’ve sort of blended into one) but I did enjoy its childlike Halloween wonder.

The effects are very good – plenty of inventive monsters and sadistic gummy bears – the kids are fantastic and Slappy is a dollop of mischievous fun. I think I’ll always be here for the Goosebumps movies honestly, they’re charming. I’ll definitely be hitting this up with a re-watch as soon as possible.

My Rating

3.5/5. Witches be crazy. 

The Hate U Give

Based on the YA novel by Angie Thomas which I have half read, THUG is a pretty solid adaptation, if a little heavy-handed in its delivery. Starring the ridiculously talented Amandla Stenberg as our main protagonist Starr and the ridiculously cool Regina Hall as Starr’s ferocious mother Lisa, this movie examines subject matter that is all too relevant. I enjoyed the ride and also cried like a baby throughout.

While I could never understand what Starr and her family and community have to deal with, I was pumping the air with triumph as Starr stood up for herself and her lost friends in the most dramatic, tense scenes imaginable. Not only does this movie look at the horror of racism and police brutality, it also hones in on the insidiousness of subconscious prejudice, particularly within Starr’s own friendship group. Russell Hornsby is fantastic too as Starr’s wise old ex-gang member father.

My Rating

4/5. Powerful stuff. 

Slaughterhouse Rulez

Meh. This, sadly, was a steaming pile of nothingness and given the cast, I’m surprised. It’s just not that memorable, funny or endearing – and takes an age to get going. When it does there are a couple of okay moments but there’s not enough to make it worth the effort. Sorry, Nick Frost, I still love you.

My Rating

2.5/5. A real stinker.

Widows

My takeaway from this is that Viola Davis should be cast in every film from now on. Literally every single one. As freshly widowed Veronica, she is mesmerising – the perfect blend of vulnerability and strength – I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She is matched perfectly though by Elizabeth Debicki as Alice, who steal scenes left and right, even from the Queen herself.

I enjoyed this film very much, it follows the lives of a handful of women left devastated by the death of their husbands, a band of bank robbers. But as with most crime capers, there are twists at every turn and danger lurking in every shadow, not least the terrifying Manning Brothers, Jatemme and Jamal (played, respectively, by two of my favourite actors, Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry).

My Rating

4/5. Girl power at its finest.

***

What have you been watching?

The Nun

The Nun (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

The thing about The Nun is that it was exactly how I expected it to be. Heavy on the jump scares, light on all the elements that would have made it really good. The Nun herself just isn’t scary beyond her ability to pop up in unexpected places, the make-up is dreadful and I don’t feel as though I know that much more about her character than when I started. I mean, she was thrown up from the bowels of hell… but why does she manifest as a nun? Who is the actual nun? And if there is something I missed here it’s because there’s just too much going on at once and shame on the makers!

That said, I had fun and enjoyed my experience despite myself. And there are elements that did work so it might be a better review if I try and focus on the bits I did like. A couple of reviews have remarked upon the strange casting choice in Taissa Farmiga, someone not really synonymous yet with the big screen (though is the sister of The Conjuring Queen, Vera so it makes sense). I thought she was good but then I’ve always enjoyed her slightly monotonous delivery. As Sister Irene I think she holds her own quite admirably and her doe-eyed demeanor suits the role.

It’s nun of your business

The setting is gorgeous – a wonderful Gothic landscape and if only they’d played more with the creepy, rather than cheap shots. The other nuns and the mysterious Miss Haversham-esque Mother Superior – any of the scenes involving them are the best bits. As they keep the chain of eternal praying going to ward off evil, we’re treated to ghostly shadows and mysterious noises that make the skin crawl. In the graveyard, we can hear the little bells tinkle, as if to suggest that it’s full of the undead and that’s a horrid thought.

When handsome (sue me) Father Burke (Demián Bichir) gets buried alive, it’s nasty but you just know he’s about to encounter something nasty beside him in his coffin – and lo! While he battles with this unholy land, he also has to tackle his feelings of guilt around a failed exorcism in the past and you’ll never guess who pops up to haunt his arse at the same time! Like come on. Plus there are zombie nuns and lots of snakes, for no good reason. Much like the first few American Horror Stories, it just throws everything at you and all I’m saying is – less is more, people.

Hot priest alert

Some of the cinematography is really something though and I like Irene enough to want her to survive. While Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), a local farmer makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect her, she remains resourceful and cute throughout.

I’d like to see more of her as we no doubt will because this does leave it wide open for the further adventures of Sister Irene. I just hope they do away with some of the horrible special effects. The love child of Marilyn Manson & Noel Fielding just ain’t that spooky.

3.5/5.

Slender Man

Slender Man (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist – until one of them mysteriously goes missing.

*Minor spoilers*

The Slender Man will always be a fascinating subject matter, ever since his conception on the horror forum Creepypasta (don’t fact check me, I don’t know his exact origin). There have been several films about his legend over the years – The Slender Man (2013) and the Beware the Slenderman documentary (2016) to name a couple – but so far none have been very good. Somehow, this seems to be one folktale that is difficult to get right.

Does Slender Man finally nail our boy in all his glory? Well, no. No it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, this movie’s main crime is that it’s boring and there’s not really any coming back from that. Our leads – Joey King and Julia Goldani Telles – really try to keep up their end and they are the best things in this but it still falls flat. That said, it is by no means the worst film ever made, there are parts that work, if only the makers had followed those through.

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My exact face when I found out there’s Slender Man porn

Our foursome, Wren (King), Hallie (Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Katie (Annalise Basso) are just like any friendship group. They’re slightly rebellious, have precocious banter in the school hallways and enjoy heavy sexual tension with the boys. When the same boys boast about a secret ‘project’ they’re doing together one night, the girls are naturally intrigued.

When they find out that the boys plan to summon Slender Man via a video on YouTube, they’re keen not to be outdone and impulsively watch it themselves. The video, reminiscent of the one from The Ring is a mish mash of dream sequence and bizarre symbolism featuring the skinny one. Although it makes little sense at this time, it is haunting and deeply effects each of the girls.

Katie seems the most spooked, staring out into the middle distance and being quieter than normal. Shortly afterwards she goes missing on a school trip (to a grave yard?). This leads her friends to dig deeper and try to make a bargain with Slender Man to bring her back. Well, you can imagine how reasonable a child killer compared to The Pied Piper of Hamelin might be.

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Got wood(s)?

Although a lot of the forest imagery becomes tiresome quickly (and the film is REALLY REALLY DARK all the time making it hard for 40 year olds with bad eyesight to follow), there are a couple of things I did like. Firstly, I should say that Slender Man is not revealed too soon which I really appreciate. When he is though the effects are questionable and I just think less is more when it comes to an enigmatic character like this.

While the girls are researching SM on a Creepypasta-esque website they stumble across a series of ‘real life’ sightings and these are really creepy and effective. Likewise when Hallie spies him in the trees at school, that’s a potentially iconic image.

There’s also a pretty tense scene in the library as Wren receives a visit which I thought was good. Ultimately though, a couple of cool ideas are not enough to see this one through and it loses steam about half way. As each of the girls experiences their own sighting, to varying degrees of horrible, their friendship is pushed to the limit. How are they going to stop him before it’s too late?

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Prank calling had suddenly got a whole lot more serious

As I type this I realise that I can’t even remember what happens to Wren and Hallie and that is not a good sign (I looked it up, oh yeah). I would say this is one that might be worth a look when it comes on Netflix but would probably piss you off if you’d spent £10+ on a cinema ticket.

Back to the drawing board I guess.

My Rating

2/5.

The First Purge

The First Purge (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

After the rise of a third political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, an experiment is conducted, no laws for 12 hours on Staten Island. No one must stay during the experiment yet there is $5,000 for anyone who does.

*Spoilers*

So this is where The Purge began, huh? As an experiment introduced by rich white folk into a low income mostly black and Latino neighbourhood where the majority of residents can’t really turn down $5k (if they agree to stay home on Purge night), even if it could cost them their lives. Brilliant.

Marisa Tomei is The Architect, a psychology professor who came up with the idea of The Purge and brought it to fruition with the help of the New Founding Fathers of America. She swans about with a smug expression and swears down that it’s a good thing for society actually. Nobody’s really convinced of that, are they?

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Nya (Lex Scott Davis) strongly disagrees and isn’t afraid to make her voice heard above the buzz on Staten Island but is it enough to change things? Is it even enough to keep her younger brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade) from wading in on Purge night? I think you can guess the answer to that.

While she holes up with half the community in the local church to ward off attackers, Isaiah vows to seek petty revenge on deranged nemesis Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) on the streets. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood Big Dog, Dmitri (Insecure‘s Y’lan Noel) struggles with Nya’s rejection of everything he stands for (drugs/violence) and also with in-gang betrayal. All this before he’s even considered what’s going on outside.

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We all know how Purge night goes so you don’t need me to explain that, let’s just say that it’s going to be a long night for all involved and if I were there, I wouldn’t be there at all, I’d have been on the first bus off the island, before the experiment had even been announced. Nope, nope, nope.

Anyway, I went into TFP with zero expectation except maybe that it would look cool and I was pleasantly surprised. One of my movie buddies saw it and really hated it, so I went in expecting the worse. Lucky for me I have a high threshold for trash and a fondness for the franchise, and that helped. Plus, I think it did look cool and had something to say about White Privilege, the manipulation of the poor and America as we know it right now.

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Although this isn’t set in modern day, it does address issues that seem incredibly relevant today and some of the imagery (the KKK/Nazis/US Po Po) is chilling AF. It’s also interesting to watch The Architect lose her cool as the Purge participants react in ways she hadn’t anticipated and also lose control of her position of power over the NFFoA – who are not to be trifled with.

Will Dmitri find a way back into Nya’s good books and do right by his community? Will Isaiah make it through the night? And this crazy arse experiment can’t possibly become a thing, can it? (Lol).

Only one way to find out.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Marrowbone

The Secret of Marrowbone (2018) or Marrowbone (original and much better title)

IMDB Synopsis

A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.

*Spoilers*

Sometimes I’m in the mood for something gentle and spooky, much like the Gothic novels I like to read in the Autumn.

Marrowbone is perfect for these occasions and ticks all the creepy boxes nicely. It also offers up a genuinely moving tale of loss, secrecy and familial loyalty which plays out in the hands of a good-looking young cast, which includes The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy, Stranger Things’ Charlie Heaton and A Cure for WellnessMia Goth.

When the family matriarch (Nicola Harrison) passes away after an illness, eldest son Jack (George MacKay) is left to keep the family afloat. Having promised his mother on her death-bed to keep her passing a secret from society, lest the children be split up, Jack keeps his siblings mainly indoors. This arrangement is far from satisfactory to Jane (Goth), Billy (Heaton) and little Sam (Matthew Stagg) but needs must and all that.

Marrowbone

Especially when the family harbor more than just this secret. Comfort and normality does come to the children however, in the form of the lovely Allie (Taylor-Joy) who befriends them instantly and becomes a joyful part of their every day life. But, as the romance between Jack and Allie deepens, love rival Porter (Kyle Soller) becomes dangerously jealous – and this in turn threatens to bring the true story of the Marrowbones out in the open.

And what’s with all the weirdness going on at the house while we’re at it?

What I like about Marrowbone is that for a long time we can only feel the tension and the fear as it manifests itself around the family home and for a contemporary ghost/horror not to play its hand so soon makes it stand out more to me. You can’t accuse this of being scary really but it has some effective moments and I enjoyed it as a thriller that sometimes has the vibe of a Sunday night BBC drama. (Not necessarily a bad thing).

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As the story unfolds it leaves you feeling more and more sympathy for the family and the climax is a bit of a corker, in a heart wrenching way. It also looks at mental illness from an interesting perspective and in a way I haven’t seen that much before on film.

Not bad at all.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Hereditary – Second Viewing

*Slightly spoiler-y*

I’ve already reviewed Hereditary here but I managed to catch it again last week, just before it left the theaters in Brighton.

I absolutely love it and more so on second viewing. It is such a unique experience and while it isn’t perfect (what the hell is?), it’s a brilliant achievement for Director Ari Aster and his team. 

If Toni Collette isn’t nommed in next year’s Oscars for her performance then I might have to boycott. She’s mesmerising as increasingly unhinged matriarch Annie, who’s barely holding the remainder of her family together following a series of tragic (and, we soon find out) preordained events.

My second viewing really unravelled a lot of the elements I didn’t catch the first time and further reading has helped me get my head around the folklore that entwines the entire narrative. It’s fucking terrifying too, even when you know what’s coming – but it’s frightening in a way that’s difficult to define. It’s gets under your skin and it lingers there for a long time afterward.

I need more horror just like this, please!