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horror

Ouija: Origins of Evil photo
Ouija: Origins of Evil

First trailer for Ouija: Origin of Evil spells out B-L-A-N-D


Stop trying to make Ouija happen, Hasbro
Jun 23
// Nick Valdez
Remember Ouija? As part of toy company Hasbro's world domination, they teamed up with Blumhouse productions (Paranormal Activity, The Purge) and first, and only, time director Stiles White and released a terribly blah foray i...

Review: Terrordactyl

Jun 17 // Rick Lash
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In time for the weekend: B-movie review
With a clever pun served on a silver platter, Terrordactyl presents itself as a straight to video B-movie masterpiece ready to absorb two hours of your Saturday night. Hoping that prehistoric mayhem might be delivered with he...

Review: The Conjuring 2

Jun 10 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220610:42965:0[/embed] The Conjuring 2Directors: James WanRating: RRelease Date: June 10, 2016  Inspired by the events of the Enfield Poltergeist in 1970s London, and six years after the events of the first film, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren find themselves in London where single mother Peggy (Frances O' Connor) and her four children are experiencing paranormal activity in their home. When the youngest, Janet (Madison Wolfe), begins acting strangely and claims to be the home's deceased previous owner, Ed and Lorraine are dispatched by the church to prove whether or not there's actually a spirit in their home. But in that search, darkness from the Warren's past comes back to wreck things for everyone.  As a sequel, Conjuring 2 makes a few interesting choices. First of all, it's left behind the metaphysical horrors of the first film and instead chooses a more physical force for the Warrens to combat with. In comparison, the only physical interaction the Warrens had with a ghost in the first film were a few things flying around the finale's exorcism. With a physical force resembling something from Wan's other well known horror series, Insidious, Conjuring 2 is directed with a more action heavy flow. The film's opening scene, which is the most important, tone establishing scene of any horror film, is punctuated by snaps so loud and at such a high frequency the scene loses the terror momentum. It abuses the "jump scare" (a sudden appearance of something punctuated by a loud noise) so much it exaggerates the action of the scene rather than revel in the horror. That's not necessarily a bad thing since the rest of the film adapts to this newer, more heightened pace and tone, but there's definitely a loss.  The newer direction undervalues the film's particularly creepy visuals. Now that there is something concrete to defeat, the tension comes from whether or not the Warrens can defeat the foe rather than the poltergeist in question getting under the audience's skin. Wan directs the brunt of the film's fear factor toward its characters and thus makes it "less scary" overall to the audience. It's fulfilling the need for suspense (and does make for a more gripping film once it gets going), but backs away from true terror. I am also not sure why it's rated R to begin with since most of the film's horror visuals are toned down in favor of this new, more exciting direction. This is also the reason comparisons to the first film are apt since it tends to cruise through the same plot points, hoping this new tone would make the story different. But try as it might to change itself, The Conjuring 2 never fully commits to either direction. It loses horror for its action, but never makes that action as compelling as it could be.  Conjuring 2 is just confused. What's most interesting about this confusion is that it births interesting elements where a more focused take would have benefited. When Wan truly dives into the horror setting, you get some unique and revelatory sequences (like with the upside down crosses or the painting scene). But it is in between horror build up that lacks the necessary pace to keep the film enthralling until the Warrens get there. For a chunk of the film I found myself waiting for the Warrens to pop in again rather than being creeped out by the setting. With such a confused take, nothing in the film quite grabs. The setting, the plot, and every character but Ed and Lorraine are entirely unremarkable. But when the Warrens finally show up to do some things, the film's action-y pace takes hold and it gets a shot in the arm.  Since The Conjuring 2 loses its horror focus, it is not too compelling when an action isn't taking place. But in that same breath, there are enough unique individual elements to make it enjoyable overall. To put it bluntly, the first film was "scarier" but the sequel handles itself better. It makes the kind of choices with its direction that serve to better the series moving forward.  To think we will get a series where an exorcist couple throws witty banter back and forth as they fight demons three or four films from now. There is just too much potential to miss. 
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Conjures a good time
The Conjuring became quite the hidden gem when it was released three years ago. A nostalgic return to classic horror haunting roots, it breathed new life into the genre by shifting the focus to paranormal hunters Ed and ...

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Bill Skarsgard cast as Pennywise the clown in new adaptation of Stephen King's It


Because people love clowns
Jun 03
// Rick Lash
The last time Stephen King's "It" was adapted to film, I was still in diapers (i.e. I was 10). The book was made into a two night television event which was largely forgettable outside of Tim Curry's epic performance as Penny...

Tribeca Review: Holidays

Apr 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220526:42927:0[/embed] HolidaysDirectors: Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Kolsch, Sarah Adina Smith, Kevin Smith, Nicholas McCarthy, Adam Egypt Mortimer, Gary Shore, Scott Stewart, Dennis WidmyerRating: RRelease Date: April 15, 2016 (limited) As its title suggests, Holidays is an anthology all based around holiday horrors. Each short is around 12-15 minutes long, with the director and holiday revealed after. There are eight shorts in total, all set in chronological horror: Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day. Easter, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Halloween, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Each short pretty much ends in the way you'd expect a short horror story to, so it's all in the journey rather than the destination. Despite what I'm about to say in the next few paragraphs, I can't ever say Holidays is bland. The film overall is a slick production with each short looking completely different from what came before or after. Each director has their own style, and while some may have better camerawork than others (St. Patrick's Day is the standout in this case), there's a care into getting the horror tone just right.  Out of the eight films, I especially enjoyed Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Father's Day. Valentine's Day is the most straightforward story, but revels in 80s synth storytelling (likening it to other big recent throwbacks like The Guest) coupled with dream-like lighting and a kickass electropop soundtrack. Father's Day is strong and silent with very little dialogue from its main character (ably played by Jocelin Donahue) and is the creepiest film in the entire package. It's also the one I'd argue is closest to actually being "horror" rather than the twisted joke the rest of the shorts play with. On a smaller note, Mother's Day is much stronger given it's paired with this testosterone laced (and somber) short. But the best overall is most definitely St. Patrick's Day. It's got the best camera work, quick edits do a lot with the little time it has, Ruth Bradley steals the show, and its twist ending is the most effective given how absurd and cartoonish it gets. It's just a shame Holidays never quite reaches this peak again.  Since it's all in chronological order, there's no narrative cohesiveness. Other than lucking out with Father's/Mother's Day, the shorts never feel like they're in the same package. With very little narrative buffer in between each short (explaining why we're seeing these eight shorts for example), it's disjointed. Some shorts have a humorous ending, some end on a jump scare, but regardless it's all less effective since nothing really lingers. Since there's no narrative flow between each short, they become all about the formula. Nothing but build-up until a pop at the end of the short. And when you've come to expect the same kind of ending halfway in, the last four segments lose all their pizazz. This is not at all helped by the final four's weaknesses, either.  For example, Kevin Smith's Halloween segment is the most, uh, "divisive." It's the most obscene of the shorts and its tone is unlike any other. But it's entirely reliant on your personal tastes to succeed. It's a revenge short that has to instantly reach for the most extreme circumstances due to its length, and since it's not entirely earned, your enjoyment of it varies on whether or not you like seeing the guy from Epic Meal Time have a sex toy forced up his rear. And because of the film's chronological order, Holidays just comes to an unsatisfying end. It can't end with its best film (and furthered hindered by having the best shorts come first), and it gives New Year's Day too much responsibility. It isn't as bad of a short as Easter or Halloween, but it's clearly not a short designed to bring a fulfilling resolution.  Like other horror anthologies before, Holidays stumbles more often than not. That's just the nature of setups like these, and while the overall film is visually captivating it just doesn't keep the same level of tension or entertainment throughout. Maybe if it were organized into a more cohesive package, the less successful films wouldn't have seemed as bad.  But as it stands, you don't have to go home for the holidays. 
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"Like a squeaky violin"
Horror anthologies are all the rage now. Get a couple of creatives together, pick a theme, and they're allowed to explore one of the smaller ideas they have in their heads. At best, you're in for a good time overall, at worst...

BioShock Twilight Zone photo
A dimension of sound, sight, and of mind
BioShock director Ken Levine is teaming with Interlude to explore the intersection of gaming and film: his next stop is The Twilight Zone. According to Wired, Levine and Interlude are finalizing their deal to use the tropes a...

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See the Green Room early and free


Washington DC Screening
Apr 19
// Matthew Razak
Patrick Stewart as the villain in a horror film. You're sold, right? Good, because we have some tickets for you that will get you into a free screening of The Green Room. The slasher has been getting solid buzz since it's pre...
Last of Us photo
Last of Us

The Last of Us movie probably isn't happening any time soon


But should it ever?
Apr 04
// Matthew Razak
Two years ago we got word that a The Last of Us movie was in the works, and then nothing, but some rumors on casting and whispers of a table read. Many of us probably forgot about it, shrugging our shoulders as we replay...

Review: Baskin

Mar 24 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220410:42869:0[/embed] BaskinDirector: Can EvrenolRating: NRRelease Date: March 25, 2016Country: Turkey Can Evrenol's Baskin began its life as a short film, and it's pretty obvious in the feature length version of the story. It even ends with the sort of moment that's more acceptable or expected in a short. As a feature-length movie, Baskin's a bit thin, which is different from a movie being lean--in terms of content, think chicken wings vs. chicken breast. Five dirty cops are called in for back up. They arrive at a decrepit building that used to be a police station during the Ottoman Empire. Deviltry ensues. Of course, it takes about half an hour to get to the meaty, muddy, bloody stuff. Evrenol draws out moments of Baskin to varying degrees of success. Our first introduction to the five cops is a tense and sordid scene. We watch the bro-y camaraderie of this group as they go about their hypermasculine way of life (i.e., they talk about getting laid and try to pick a fight with an innocent kid). As they leave the restaurant, they listen to a pop song and get lost on the road. There are villagers with faces like Rondo Hatton, and then finally the building. Oh yeah, also portentous frogs. In all this lead up, one of the cops has recurring visions, the first of which involves a memory about the death of a childhood friend. Whenever a short is turned into a feature-length film, the movie usually feels like it's killing time. Baskin can't avoid this, but it tries to breathe a little life into its stock characters. A few of the drawn out moments effectively heighten the dread of the situation, delaying the gratification and catharsis of a jump scare. Cinematographer Alp Korfali shoots everything with great care, with some impeccable lighting and wonderful compositions. It gives the pre-building portion of the film an entirely different feel from the bugged-out building stuff. Some shots have a deeply saturated palette straight out of classic Argento, others have a sort of grainy quality you'd expect out of a crime drama. The core audience for Baskin will mainly be drawn to the third act set piece, which is sort of like Lucio Fulci doing Hellraiser. While the rest of the film's slowness seemed to be an excuse to hit the feature-length mark, the finale uses the slowness to give the proceedings a sense of languid ceremony. This is a ritual, a vile one, and these are the events of the ritual, and these are the words that are spoken, and these are the screams of the men, and these people (if they are even still considered people) have done this before many times. At the center of this finale is an actor named Mehmet Cerrahoglu, who has a look and demeanor so unnerving that he may become an international horror icon if he continues to find roles. Baskin shows lots of promise from Evrenol, who seems like an avid student and lover of the genre. The hallucinatory imagery of the film has a unique flavor to it, as does the ritual imagery, and even the cop stuff looks solid. I'm just hoping his next feature feels more like a full-blown feature rather than a blown-up short.
Review: Baskin photo
1980s Italian-style horror (from Turkey)
I was talking to another film critic a few weeks ago and he mentioned catching a screener of Can Evrenol's Baskin. "You have to see it," he said. He added that he spent the last third of the movie looking away in disgust...

Review: They're Watching

Mar 23 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220397:42860:0[/embed] They're WatchingDirectors: Jay Lender and Micah WrightRelease Date: March 25, 2016 (limited, VOD)Rating: NR They're Watching was made by first-time directors Jay Lender and Micah Wright. Both have a background in enjoyably fun Nickelodeon animated shows (SpongeBob, Angry Beavers, Hey Arnold!), though Wright has also worked in comics and videogames for years, most notably as a co-writer on Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The set-up is sort of promising, at least if the movie were handled differently. A home improvement reality show returns to the remote village of Pavlovka to catch up with two of its previous subjects, an American named Becky (Brigid Brannagh) and her townie husband Goran (Cristian Balint). Their fixer-upper house is a rundown hovel, the perfect place for spooky chicanery. The previous tenant must have been The Blair Witch. The TV crew is comprised of a group of Starbucks-obsessed ugly Americans straight out of The Big Book of Horror Cliches: a horndog bro (Kris Lemche), a handsome guy haunted by his experiences as a war journalist (David Alpay), a hard-nosed ice queen producer (Carrie Genzel), and a naive upstart straight out of film school (Mia Faith). There's something not right in this town and the locals seem suspicious of the outsiders and their intentions. Some of these moments are unnerving since they play on the paranoia of being watched while watching others and seeing something you weren't meant to see. Villagers appear on camera frozen and gawping as the crew nervously giggles it off--the first rule of ugly Americanism is you don't realize you're an ugly American. The only trusting fellow is a grifting local named Dimitri (Vladimir Filat), who at least camps up the staid proceedings whenever he's on screen, although he's another cliche from Horror-Abroad edition of The Big Book. In the brief instances of They're Watching that sort of work, I felt like I was watching some weird combination of Borat and The Wicker Man. Too bad it doesn't work (though maybe someday someone can do that movie). One of They're Watching's most notable violations of the found-footage form is the film's score. I say violation because the movie is trying to play things semi-straightfaced rather than trying to call attention to the inherent artifice of the found-footage movie. The music comes on sinister when we're meant to sense something sinister, much like it would in any other film not comprised of supposedly raw footage. It made me wonder why make They're Watching a found-footage movie at all. What's worse, They're Watching doesn't go all the way with its initial sense of paranoia. The "They're" part and the "Watching" part of They're Watching are almost immaterial. The mutual suspicion between the crew and the village folk? Not much to it, really, as we careen into a final-act twist and a supernatural schlockfest, albeit one that's enjoyable for what it is even though it doesn't fit in with everything else. More than the found-footage stuff, the aimless narrative is the main thing that undermines They're Watching. There's no sense of payoff once the blue magic lightning shows up and splatters people real good. It's as if we're watching a different movie at that point, especially since we mostly watched characters kill time on camera while awaiting their eventual first-person demise. Come to think of it, one of the character's deaths is spoiled at the very beginning of the movie. Yes, They're Watching is--in violation of the found-footage form--essentially a pseudo-flashback. What a waste of perfectly good blue magic lightning.
Review: They're Watching photo
A fixer-upper if I've ever seen one
In almost every found-footage movie, there's a much better non-found-footage movie. The entire idea of found-footage becomes a formal hindrance in which the mere act of filming crazy stuff going on requires constant justifica...

ND/NF Review: Evolution

Mar 21 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220389:42858:0[/embed] EvolutionDirector: Lucile HadzihalilovicRelease Date: TBDRating: TBDCountry: France The world of Evolution is mysterious from the get go, which is due largely to the coastal locale where the film is set. We don't know what year it is, or quite where this place is either. It's all so otherworldly, the sort of setting for tales, allegories, and de Chirico paintings. There are white stucco buildings built near the water, and the sand is black leading to the turbulent shore. It's beautiful in how stark it is. In the distance, there's a medical facility that looks like it was abandoned years ago, but boys and their mothers walk back and forth for periodic examinations. There are only grown women and young boys on this island. There are no men, there are no girls, and the mothers have a sinister uniformity about them. At night, the mothers leave their homes carrying hand lanterns and congregate near the water. The boys are just boys but are in the dark about their caretakers. The boys are raised on a diet of mashed kelp and something like worms, one of those foods that while heated in a saucepan still looks cold when it's served. Evolution centers primarily on Nicolas (Max Brebant) and his mother (Julie-Marie Parmentier), and what Nicolas discovers about this town and where babies come from. We follow him into the night, down long corridors, to water in the dark, and in the process participate in the act of discovery, unwrapping the allegory along with Nicolas, sharing in his repulsion and curiosity. Roughly midway through Evolution, this dive into the unknown slows, maybe too much for what's revealed about the mothers and their boys. Yet even what's revealed is just enough to suggest larger possibilities and delve deeper into the thematic territory of the movie--sex, childbirth, asexuality, violation, flesh, reproduction, biological processes. I sensed in the film's lull that Hadzihalilovic was signalling a move away from an explicit exploration of the plot and the machinery of the world to a series of ruminative brushstrokes, each one a deliberate move to the film's finale, which is more conceptual than visceral. In the immediate aftermath of Evolution, I felt a little let down, expecting more of a resolution to what's introduced early on. Yet the movie has this strange, lingering quality thanks to its pervasive otherworldliness. I mentioned Lovecraft and Cronenbeg earlier, but Hadzihalilovic makes this movie her own, invested with unique hobbyhorses and a fascinating sensibility. It's rare to see a movie that sticks around in your mind after an initial sense of disappointment. The fact I'm still thinking about Evolution, and deeper now than in the hours after the first viewing, have made me reevaluate Hadzihalilovic's languid pace, which unfolds with the same speed as a dream verging on a nightmare but never quite arriving there. Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse does a magnificent job in rendering these images and giving them such a haunting quality that I can't get several of them out of my head. Evolution's grown on me, like a skin graft or like coral, or maybe it's grown in me, like the stuff of recurring bad dreams.
Review: Evolution photo
Lingering, haunting, and yet
There's so much going for Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Evolution, a film expertly lensed from the deliberate first shot: looking up to the sky from underwater. From beneath, the ripples and waves on the ocean surface produce undul...

ND/NF Review: Under the Shadow

Mar 14 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220388:42856:0[/embed] Under the Shadow (زیر سایه)Director: Babak AnvariRating: TBDRelease Date: TBDCountry: Iran  It's easy to spot shadows everywhere in Anvari's film given the nature of the beast. Set in 1980s Tehran during the Iran-Iraq War, there are frequent air raid sirens and the threat of missiles coming down on civilian targets at any moment. Anvari sets up a particularly memorable tableau of an unexploded missile that's come through an apartment ceiling. An elderly man lies prone on the ground as if pinned there beneath the shell; the pointed nose seems to have pierced him through the heart. Our hero Shideh (Narges Rashidi) lives in the apartment below, and that particular attack has left her ceiling a mess of cracks. For the characters who live in the building, their meager defense against being blown to pieces involves taping their windows and waiting in the basement for the terror to pass. There's more than the threat of bombs. Under the Shadow opens with Shideh getting kicked out of medical school because of her activism during the Iranian revolution. She's maintained a defiantly western mentality even after the Shah was exiled. Shideh rarely wears a hijab or chador (traditional headscarf and cloak, respectively), and she owns a VCR--a Jane Fonda aerobic workout is a form of dissent. When her husband is called away to the frontlines, Shideh is left alone to look after their daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). The rest of the building seems to be fleeing, and there's talk of djinn, an ancient evil of legend, riding on the wind. Anvari gets a lot of thematic mileage out of the chador and masking tape on windows. Ana Lilly Amirpour, writer/director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, said that wearing a chador felt very bat-like to her, which helped inspire her chic vampire film (sort of like the Persian-language cousin of Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive). For Shideh in Under the Shadow, the chador is a stifling metaphor: an invisible specter delineated in a sheet, a manifestation of Iran's political oppression, the symbol of a gender role she's disavowed. These things cannot be kept out by putting masking tape on windows. At various times in the film, the tape is peeling away. Anvari was born in Iran and lived there 17 years, but is now based in the UK. While he's sometimes distanced himself from the film's politics to emphasize the personal story between Shideh and Dorsa, it's hard for me to view Under the Shadow apolitically. It's a political movie because Shideh's a politically involved hero. Even if it's not always front and center, her actions speak to her politics. Shideh's struggles to keep the bombs and the djinn out aren't just for her own dignity but for Dorsa's future. Dorsa's little doll goes missing amid the chaos, and by extension we're left to wonder what future Dorsa's daughter might face if they were to remain in Iran. (Under the Shadow was shot in Jordan given numerous government restrictions/requirements when making films in Iran.) I'll admit I didn't find much of Under the Shadow scary, but I rarely find horror movies scary. It's eerie, however, and well-crafted. Most times I appreciate a horror movie for being memorable more than being scary. Rashidi is a solid emotional anchor for the film. Manshadi's not given as much to do acting-wise, but that says more about the nature of Dorsa as a character, who's a little one-note adorable. Rashidi plays Shideh with that exasperated air of a parent pushed to her limit, a woman who cares for her daughter so much yet can't help but feel she's also failing her in some way. It might be the all the other worries of country and career that makes her feel this way, pressing down more and more. The cracks begin to show, and they grow bigger, and it's always getting darker.
Review: Under the Shadow photo
Darkness, darkness everywhere
Some of the most notable indie horror movies of the last few years have been by women or about women. For example, see Jennifer Kent's The Babadook, David Robert Mitchell's It Follows, and Robert Eggers' The Witch. Each ...

Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Mar 11 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220396:42854:0[/embed] 10 Cloverfield LaneDirector: Dan TrachtenbergRelease Date: March 11, 2016Rating: PG-13 Rather than a Cloverfield sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a taut thriller spun out of a Twilight Zone conceit. In fact, it's a bit unfortnate that it carries the name Cloverfield and was billed as a spiritual sequel or blood relative to the 2008 film. I can foresee a lot of moviegoers being upset given the expectations they had going in, but really, 10 Cloverfield Lane deserves to be taken on its own terms. Sure, the movie will make more money thanks to the Cloverfield name, though it's a bit of a disservice to its content, which stands on its own as a strong feature film debut by director Dan Trachtenberg, and a great vehicle for its three stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher, Jr. There's something a little Hitchcockian about the opening of 10 Cloverfield Lane, though that's thanks in large part to Bear McCreary's score, which has plenty of echoes of Bernard Hermann. Michelle (Winstead) is a woman driving away from her past who's involved in a horrible car accident. When she comes to, she's chained up in an underground survival bunker that belongs to a man named Howard (Goodman). They're joined by an injured guy named Emmet (Gallagher), who claims to have run to the bunker for safety just as something unspeakable was happening above ground. The tension of 10 Cloverfield Lane stems from Michelle's uncertainty about this whole situation; the movie's set-up is a mystery box from which she's trying to escape. We're similarly left trying to figure out who Emmet and Howard really are and what their motives might be. Trachtenberg stages the unfolding drama through claustrophobic angles, carefully doling out sinister hints, red herrings, and brief moments of levity. It keeps the audience guessing what's to come and reassessing what's come before. There's the question of what's happened to the world (if anything), and whether or not the potential danger above ground is better than staying below. Howard's got a military background (or does he?) and claims the air's contaminated (or is it?), and that they may have to stay in his bunker for a year or two before it's safe to go out again. As an actor, Goodman's always been able to switch between kind and sinister with ease. His roles in Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski come to mind. Howard's made of mood swings, vacillating between good-hearted and unhinged. As he shows Michelle around the bunker, he calmly notes that the dinner table is a family heirloom, which means they have to use coasters and placemats at all times. Later, a calculated little touch of the fingers between Michelle and Emmet throws Howard into a rage, causing him to slam his fist on the table. Unreal domesticity has its own special kind of dread. Kathy Bates in Misery might be the best unit of comparison for Howard, with a good dose of Michael Shannon in Take Shelter for added flavor, but Goodman makes the role his own. Casting him makes perfect sense--who else could simultaneously play loving father and creepy uncle? Howard is so imposing, and Goodman could run away with the film (he only sort of does), so it's a good thing he has a strong counterpoint in Michelle. Winstead proves herself a more than capable as the film's hero. Her immediate instinct is escape, and as soon as she's in the bunker, she demonstrates her knack for craftiness and improvisation. She's a fighter, and maybe a lesser movie would paint her as a victim or a mere captor for most of the film's runtime. Instead we get someone strong from the start, and who is much more resourceful than she gives herself credit for. She's got layers still untapped, and there are plenty of twists as Michelle figures out what's going on in this mystery box. For Michelle, like so much about 10 Cloverfield Lane, there's a lot under the surface that's thrilling to discover.
10 Cloverfield Lane photo
Not a sequel, but that's a good thing
J.J. Abrams loves his mystery boxes, and the marketing campaign around 10 Cloverfield Lane is so darn mystery box-y: a movie seemingly made in secret, a release scheduled just two months after the first trailer, a t...

The Purge 3 photo
The Purge 3

Watching this trailer for The Purge: Election Day is not a crime


#CrimeDay, #CrimeDeux, and #CrimeTrois
Feb 11
// Nick Valdez
What started out as an ironic love of The Purge's premise (#CrimeDay, the holiest of holidays) quickly grew into an honest joy when The Purge: Anarchy completely reinvented itself. Taking full advantage of all the chaos 12 ho...

Netflix Five: Under-the-radar horror films

Feb 09 // Sean Walsh
[embed]220351:42826:0[/embed] The Veil (2016)Director: Phil JoanouRating: 3/5 From the director of the totally excellent Punisher: Dirty Laundry fan film with a script by Robert Ben Garant of Reno 911 fame, The Veil features Jessica Alba, Tom Jane, and American Horror Story alum Lily Rabe. The film tells the story of the lone survivor of the group suicide of a cult known as Heaven's Veil (Rabe) led Jim Jones Jacobs (Jane). A young woman (Alba) and her film crew convince Rabe's character to return to the scene of the suicide and help them find footage that was shot at the compound but never found. Shocking nobody, things get spooky and bodies start piling up fairly quickly. The Veil wasn't anything special, but it was okay. Tom Jane's charasmatic cult leader was well-acted and certainly the best performance in the film, similar to Michael Parks' role in Red State. Alba's character feels awfully underdeveloped and Rabe is there to more or less help move the plot along. One saving grace was that the filmmakers made the smart decision of not making The Veil a found footage film (which it was originally going to be!) , despite the importance placed on film footage and even the usage of footage to help tell the story. While it isn't groundbreaking by any stretch, had they made it into a found footage film it would be just another addition to a sea of mediocre films. Bottom line: you can certainly do worse than The Veil. [embed]220351:42827:0[/embed] Kristy (2013)Director: Oliver BlackburnRating: 4/5 Most home invasion thrillers usually take place at, well, homes, so the fact that Kristy took place on a college campus was a refreshing change of pace. The plot is as simple as they come: a girl stays on campus over Thanksgiving break and finds herself terrorized by three people in hoodies and masks that keep calling her 'Kristy' (her name is Justine). See? Simple. The trope of 'victim fights back' is as old as they come, but it's especially effective in this film. Once things get going, which blissfully doesn't take all that long, they move at a fast pace all the way up to the end. The simplicity and execution of Kristy offsets the edgy social media motivations of the killers, who really didn't need any explanation beyond their rants about 'Kristy.' The three masked intruders in The Strangers had zero backstory and it was far more effective that way. That said, Kristy is an excellent addition to the home invasion genre.  [embed]220351:42828:0[/embed] Butcher Boys (2012)Director: Duane Graves Rating: N/A (didn't finish) A girl and her friends end up on the wrong side of the tracks and in the sights of a group of bad boy leather jacket cannibals. Yeehaw. I got about halfway into Butcher Boys before giving up the ghost and moving on to pulling out my brains like the Egyptians did during mummification, as it was considerably more preferable than continuing this film. The big problem is that instead of taking characters akin to Leatherface and his family out of the country and into an urban setting, we get a bunch of uninteresting bad boys with a taste for flesh. I recently read Shane McKenzie's Muerte Con Carne and standing next to that, Butcher Boys was bland and boring. If I had to give what I watched a rating, it would be echh/5. [embed]220351:42830:0[/embed] Contracted (2013)Director: Eric EnglandRating: 5/5  Contracted is a cautionary tale about going to parties and drinking too much like Requiem for a Dream is one to doing hard drugs. Poor Samantha drinks too much at a party to forget about her ex-girlfriend and is date raped. What Samantha passes off as a hangover proves to be far more grave and in the days that follow the party, she finds herself having contracted (do you see what I did there?) a very, very heinous case of the STD blues. This film is not for the weak of heart as it is essentially a grotesque variant of torture porn as we spend the admittedly short run time (clocking in at a paltry 78 minutes) watching Samantha fall apart. The effects are spectacular, gross enough to give Tom Savini pause, and they really make it apparent that Sam is really not in for a good time. Ultimately, Contracted feels like the first in what could easily be a trilogy (and with a second installment out, it certainly seems likely), showing us at length the prologue to an epidemic, something that usually only takes up a small piece of a single film. After having watched both Contracted and its sequel, I am certainly excited to see where they take it next. [embed]220351:42829:0[/embed] Frankenstein's Army (2013)Director: Richard Raaphorst Rating: 5/5  As I touched on above, found footage films can be really hit or miss. Fortunately for me, as I was incredibly hungry to see this film based on the DVD art alone, Frankenstein's Army was awesome. Frankenstein's Army has another fairly simple premise: during World War II, some Russian soldiers respond to a distress call in Germany and find themselves neck-deep in Silent Hill body horror insanity with little to no hope of escape. While the movie may not be the Citizen Kane of the horror genre, the designs of the titular 'army' alone would've gotten this a 5/5 with me. The monsters are absolutely horrific and unlike anything I've seen in live-action movies. I don't want to even try to describe them, lest I ruin the surprise as each one rears its ugly head. My only problem with this film is the fact that the footage looks like it was shot with a modern video camera as opposed to something that would've been used during WWII. Considering how awesome the monsters looked, I can't imagine it would've been too hard for editors to age the film so make it look era-appropriate. Despite that one issue, Frankenstein's Army is up there with The Children and Event Horizon in my personal favorite horror films. 
Netflix 5: horror films photo
Give new meaning to "Netflix and chill"
Netflix Five is a quick and dirty look at five films or shows that we've watched and want to either recommend or condemn for our readers to help make their trip through the instant queue a little less overwhelming. Not every ...

10 Cloverfield Lane TV photo
10 Cloverfield Lane TV

10 Cloverfield Lane teases a certain monster in this mysterious Super Bowl TV spot


Roooaaar
Feb 08
// Hubert Vigilla
The first trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane came from out of nowhere. (Sort of like an RKO.) Directed by Dan Trachtenberg and produced by J.J. Abrams, the film had a similarly mysterious Super Bowl TV spot that teased the poten...
The Witch and satanists photo
The Witch and satanists

The Satanic Temple is holding early screenings of The Witch, which has a new trailer


"I sell shoes!"
Feb 03
// Hubert Vigilla
Ever since hearing about Robert Eggers' The Witch at last year's Sundance Film Festival, I've been waiting eagerly to see it. If you live in New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, or Detroit, you can catch the movie a few days e...
Pandemic trailer photo
Pandemic trailer

Watch the trailer for Pandemic, an FPS-style take on the zombie apocalypse


Needs HUD with health/ammo information
Feb 02
// Hubert Vigilla
There have been quite a few films shot entirely from the first-person perspective. The results of this can vary. You have loads of found-footage movies, for example, many of which are fodder with some memorable exceptions (th...
Green Room trailer photo
Green Room trailer

Watch the red band trailer for Green Room, starring Patrick Stewart as a neo-Nazi (NSFW)


From Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier
Feb 02
// Hubert Vigilla
Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin was an exceptionally made, critically acclaimed revenge thriller that drew comparisons to the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple. It was one of my favorite movies released in 2014. For a f...
New John Carpenter album photo
New John Carpenter album

John Carpenter's Lost Themes II coming in April, with live shows and possible US tour dates


If I were a carpenter...
Feb 01
// Hubert Vigilla
Last year, horror maestro John Carpenter released the album Lost Themes, a collection of original compositions that could have come from one of his movies. If you loved Lost Themes, you'll be happy to know that a new Carpente...
Cabin Fever trailer photo
Cabin Fever trailer

Watch the Cabin Fever remake trailer, which looks just like the Eli Roth original


Superfluous remake seems superfluous
Feb 01
// Hubert Vigilla
In 2002, Eli Roth launched his career with Cabin Fever. Now, 13-14 years later, we have a remake of Cabin Fever that looks a lot like, well, Cabin Fever. Give the Cabin Fever remake a look below. While Peter Jackso...
The Chickening photo
The Chickening

Watch The Chickening, a NSFW and WTF parody of The Shining


What has been seen cannot be unseen
Jan 27
// Hubert Vigilla
Nick DenBoer and Davy Force's The Chickening is a poultry-centric parody of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. I want you to pause a moment, read that sentence again, and then just watch the NSFW video below. That was the Citize...
Southbound horror clip photo
Southbound horror clip

Watch the opening scene from Southbound, a new anthology horror film (NSFW)


On the road again, and again, and again
Jan 26
// Hubert Vigilla
In 2012, V/H/S helped kick off a mini-boom in anthology horror films, eventually spawning two sequels of its own. Anthology films are typically hit or miss from short to short (or a big miss overall), though at their best, an...
del Toro photo
Yea, that's pretty much perfect
If you were ever a child at some point the illustrations from the book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark haunted your dreams. If you're an adult now they probably still do. The series of books collected some pretty solid...

RIP Angus Scrimm (1926-2016)

Jan 10 // Hubert Vigilla
Phantasm's Tall Man has p photo
Phantasm's Tall Man has passed away
Angus Scrimm, the actor best know for portraying The Tall Man in the Phantasm films, died yesterday in Los Angeles. He was 89 years old. Phantasm director Don Coscarelli emailed the following statement to Entertainment Weekly...

Review: The Forest

Jan 08 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220259:42746:0[/embed] The ForestDirector: Jason Zada Release Date: January 8, 2016Rating: PG-13  I knew I was going to dislike The Forest from the moment I was reminded of its premise. It’s about the Aokigahara Forest, one of two films about that in the works (the other is directed by Gus Van Sant, and by default I expect it will be the best Aokigahara-focused film of 2016). Aokigahara is a forest in Japan, the most popular suicide spot there and one of the most popular in the world. There are demons there, too, at least as far as the film is concerned. But none of that bothers me. I mean, who doesn’t love a good Japanese horror film? Problem is, it’s not a Japanese horror film. It’s a film about a white girl, a blonde white girl named Sarawho doesn’t speak Japanese going to find her not-blonde white girl twin sister, Jess, who may or may not speak Japanese. Jess went into the Suicide Forest (it’s actually called that, by the way), presumably to commit suicide. Sara goes to find her, because her twin sense continued to tingle. If something was really going to go wrong, she’d know because the twin sense would go silent. It’s a thing that twins have. (So they say.) It’s somewhere between familial bonding, quantum entanglement, and supernatural garbage. My instinct is that it falls towards that latter one, because that’s really the best way to explain the film. It makes me legitimately angry that I spent a fair portion of The Forest looking away from the screen. The easiest example to point to takes place… at some point, I don’t even remember when. Sarah is walking down a hallway, and the lights are flickering on and off. As she goes down, ON, flicker, OFF, pause. ON, flicker, OFF, pause. It’s quiet. You know and have known since she got into the hallway that at some point it’s going to flicker on and something is going to jump out at the screen. You know it because that’s how these things work, when they have nothing else to show. And The Forest does it. And I jumped a bit. I was looking just offscreen, but the sound and the sudden movement got me up a bit. And I was infuriated. Years ago, I reviewed a film called Replicas (later retitled In Their Skin). A commenter chastised me for being "defeated by that mediocre film." I stand by my glowing assessment of that film, but that comment has stuck with me ever since. It’s basically how I feel about my reaction to The Forest. In the climactic scenes, the ones where things are supposedly “scary,” I was able to watch the film just fine, because it wasn’t jumpy any more. It was just “atmospheric” or whatever. But, of course, it wasn’t. I stared at it, almost feeling bad for what didn’t even seem like an honest attempt at horror. I have trouble imagining anyone feeling the slightest twinge of fear while watching that final sequence. (The only legitimately unsettling sequence was in a cave with an overly happy Japanese girl. Her performance made me rather tense, though the ultimate place that encounter went didn’t even make sense with the narrative, so that one moment of potential good was ruined.) In those jump moments, I braced myself for the impact. I tensed my body, looked away from the screen, and hated everything about it. Every single scare was so obviously telegraphed literally minutes before it happened. And other people in the theater jumped each time as well. It felt so clinical, so scientific. Like they had focus tested exactly how many times the light should flicker before the elderly woman popped out. They knew how to get a rise out of people, and they knew that there was nothing else to get people into the theater. They could put out a trailer of just people jumping, like they did for Paranormal Activity all those years ago, and maybe a few people would go see it. But it’s a cheat. You take a forest. You take an issue like suicide. You tell people that the forest doesn’t kill you, it makes you kill yourself – which is a fascinating concept, by the way, and I would like to see it play out in a better film. At some point, it threatens to deliver on that concept, but the actual execution is so shoddy that it’s barely worth considering (and, like so much else, it can’t stick the landing). When I got out of the theater, I had these grand visions of writing a multi-thousand word essay on the nature of fear, but as I look back on it, The Forest doesn’t deserve that. It doesn’t really even deserve the thought that I’ve already given it. Don’t see The Forest. If it doesn’t make you angry, then you’ll just be bored, wishing you’d seen The Revenant instead. That’s sort of a horror movie, and it also takes place in the woods. And it’s awesome. Go see The Revenant. Forget The Forest exists. By the time this has posted, I know I will have.
The Forest Review photo
Nope
I’ve written before about how wimpy I am at horror movies. I don’t know that I’m “scared” easily, but I’m exceedingly jumpy. A loud sound, sudden movement, or anything of that sort will lau...

Phantasm 4k restoration photo
Phantasm 4k restoration

In addition to Star Wars, J.J. Abrams is doing a Phantasm 4k restoration


Boooooooooy!
Dec 14
// Hubert Vigilla
J.J. Abrams and Disney have been really good at keeping most of Star Wars: The Force Awakens a secret. That'll change tonight after the film premieres, and on December 16th when official reviews go online. Abrams and his comp...
Adventure Time photo
Adventure Time

You should be watching the mini-series Adventure Time: Stakes


Cartoon Network raises the stakes
Nov 20
// John-Charles Holmes
Last year, Cartoon Network took home audiences by surprise with their first mini-series, Over the Garden Wall. The ten episode event delighted critics and fans with a short form original story, and this year Cartoon Network t...

Review: Shrew's Nest

Nov 04 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]220097:42685:0[/embed] Shrew's Nest (Musarañas)Directors: Juan Fernando Andrés and Esteban Roel Rating: NRCountry: Spain  The term "slow burn" gets thrown around a lot. I know I've used it more than once. Sometimes it's a useful term to describe how a film functions; other times it's a way to say something is boring without having to use that language. Sometimes people think things are a slow burn when they're really not. Shrew's Nest isn't a slow burn, though I know of others who say it is. Those people are either accidentally ignorant or willfully ignorant, but either way they're wrong. They're wrong, because the sequence of events that ultimately lead to the narrative boiling over aren't slow at all. They're very deliberate, placed perfectly in order to ratchet up the tension while also revealing the multiple facets of each character. At first, we see characters effectively through their own eyes, how they try to present themselves to the world. Then we see them through the eyes of others, where some of those seams start to show. Ultimately, we see them for who they truly are. And, not unexpectedly, what we find there isn't pretty. Montse is confined to the house. Not by some external force but an internal one. She can make it to the door, but she'll never go past it. Her sister, who she refers to as niña (translated as "the girl"), can go out. The girl goes to work during the day, and Montse stays home. She cooks and cleans and makes sure that her sister stays away from men. Because men are bad people who do bad things. (Note that it's clear almost immediately what happened to Montse, but that doesn't make the ultimate reveal any less painful, nor does it really prepare you for what follows.) One day, a man basically falls into her lap. As Carlos tries to leave his apartment (a floor above the girls'), he falls down the stairs, breaking his leg and hitting his head. After asking for her help, he faints. She brings him inside, binds his leg, and puts him in her bed. What follows, of course, is misery. Also, Misery. From the outset you know that Montse is unhinged, but the question is how far she'll go to keep Carlos there. The answer: Really Fucking Far. But in order to get to that point, we need context. Montse is viscous, something we learn early on, but seeing how her madness manifests itself is crucial to making the violence feel justified. Violence for the sake of violence can be fine, but there's something disquietingly realistic about characters in Shrew's Nest. Montse has had a rough time of it, and her psyche has been shaped accordingly. The girl is a little afraid of her sister, but the relationship is at the point where that's generally fine, until Carlos comes into the picture. Carlos isn't particularly concerned, particularly since Montse is so kind to him, but he doesn't understand the situation. He believes her when she says she had a doctor visit, but we know she's lying. Each time a character makes a decision, even if they make the wrong one, it felt fair. Characters do stupid things, but so do people. And characters don't do certain stupid things that they would be expected to do in a horror movie. Shrew's Nest is not particularly scary, but it is consistently unsettling. It's also claustrophobic, taking place entirely in a single apartment building (two apartments and the stairwell between them). That's good both for both budgetary and narrative reasons. The world never really feels larger than the one building, even as people other than the leads come in and out. That's important, because Shrew's Nest takes place in a place where other people live. Misery was in the middle of nowhere, but Montse doesn't have that sort of luxury, and neither do the filmmakers. This building – and really just the one apartment – needs to feel like the entire world, and it succeeds in that respect.  In fact, it succeeds in pretty much every respect. The minor issues I had ultimately don't matter, and as I think back on it, I barely even remember what they were. Only the good things stick in my brain, and there are a whole lot of good things. It's well crafted, well acted, well concepted, and well executed. There are some moments that are truly grotesque in the absolute best way, and there are images I'm not going to be able to scrub from my mind for quite some time. With a film like this, that's really all you can want. And Shrew's Nest delivers that and a whole lot more. 
Shrew's Nest Review photo
Shrew's Company
When I was in middle school, we'd periodically have a writer, Jon Land, come and talk to us. He'd talk about writing and life and whatever else. (Honestly, I don't really remember what most of those talks were about, but what...

Ash vs Evil Dead online photo
Ash vs Evil Dead online

Watch the first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead for free online


This is legit, guys
Nov 03
// Hubert Vigilla
Ash vs Evil Dead debuted on Starz over the weekend, and the reviews have been fantastic. What's that? You don't have Starz? And you want to see the show? Well, you can now watch the first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead for free ...

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