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  • Film (Re)View – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

    Well, what can I say? Thoroughly impressed by this outing from Guillermo del Toro, and for those of you saying “I’m not really into his movies”, go see this, as it isn’t a usual del Torro flick!

    The backstory to the film is all about how a rich family – the Bellows – (it’s always the rich) lock their ‘different’ daughter, Sarah, in a cellar room, away from everyone and everything. There, she wiles away her time reading, and writing stories which she read aloud to local kids through a grate in the wall. That those kids went on to die in mysterious circumstances, was blamed on the stories she told and so on Sarah. Unable to take it anymore, Sarah hanged herself.

    Cue the present day and Hallowe’en night, of all nights. Stella, Auggie and Chuck are embarking on their last trick or treat night, with one thing in mind – to pay Tommy the bully back for always having stolen their candy. Needless to say, finding shit instead of candy didn’t go down too well, and Stella et al. end up hiding in the car of draft dodger Ramon at the drive-in. Tommy and his cronies thwarted, the gang, including Ramon, go to visit an old abandoned house where the daughter, who was hidden away in the basement, killed herself.

    The group, thanks to Ramon’s lock picking skills, get into the basement room and Stella finds Sarah’s storybook. In the meantime, the goon squad have located them and decide to lock them in the basement room, then leaving them. Panic ensues until the lock is released by the spirit that haunts the house.

    The gang flees, Stella with the book, and return home. Safely in her room, Stella opens the book to the last story which is called ‘Harold’. It piques her interest as ‘Harold’ is the name of the scarecrow in Tommy’s parents’ field; a scarecrow that Tommy frequently beats with a baseball bat. Stella reads and notices Tommy’s name in the story which she finds strange and, as she runs her thumb over the title, the ink smudges, as though freshly written.

    The next day, Tommy is reported missing.

    Stella tries to tell Ramon about the story, but he doesn’t believe her and they argue, the book falling to the floor as they do so. They both look down to see the book open and another story being written as they stand and watch. Stella grabs the book and follows the story which tells of a toe taken from a corpse and cooked in a stew, and how the corpse comes looking for her missing toe. It is only when she reads Auggie’s name that the penny drops. Stella and her friends are being picked off, one by one, for breaking into Sarah’s room and taking her storybook.

    Stella takes the book back, hoping to stop more of her friends going missing, but it is waiting for her on her bed when she gets home. All she can do is warn her remaining friends as each new story is written and try to find out the truth behind the mysterious deaths Sarah was blamed for.

    The film is a fantastic insight into childhood nightmares; nightmares that make no sense at all, but which have the ability to scare us to death. We all worried our nightmares would come true and in this film, they do!

    You may find the subject matter of each nightmare is pathetic and far-fetched, but try to remember one of your own nightmares or dreams. They are always far-fetched and often about the most bizarre things imaginable.

    Del Toro brings all of our nightmares to life in this film and he does it so well, bringing in the ‘vengeful spirit’ who is paying back ‘anyone’ for what happened to her. It is only through Stella’s diligence that the truth comes out and Sarah is set free.

    Highly recommended.

  • Film (Re)View – Crawl

    Well, what can I say? It could have been so good…

    The story follows Haley, a competition swimmer, who ignores the hurricane warnings and goes to find her father, thanks to a worried phone call from her sister.

    Despite being close when Haley was young – her dad being her swim coach – a rift has grown between them and now they barely speak. Dave, Haley’s dad, lives close to an alligator farm in Florida and, on finding his condo empty except for his dog Sugar, Haley goes to the former family home, which is supposed to have been sold following her parents’ divorce.

    Haley finds Dave seriously injured in the cellar of the house and, as she drags him to safety, she soon meets the perpetrator of his injuries – an alligator. As to how it got into the cellar, well, that’s due to the river breaking its banks and bringing it through the conveniently alligator-sized storm drain/overflow which leads to/from the cellar (or so it appears). As to how the alligator got into the river (assuming it isn’t wild), well, that would be courtesy of the alligator farm being compromised by the hurricane.

    So far so good.

    Realising she’s dropped her phone, Haley decides to leave her severely wounded father and their ‘safe for now’ hiding place, to go and get it and call for help. Given phones don’t work at the best of times, I fail to see how it would in a hurricane!

    This is when she discovers there are two alligators, one of which gets hold of her arm and twists it around, as alligators do, in an attempt to rip it off. Now badly wounded, she manages to drag herself into another hiding place.

    Water is pouring into the cellar, so the pair have no choice but to find a way out. Despite both characters having critical and debilitating injuries, they manage to escape the cellar, but as to escaping the alligators, the storm has other ideas.

    I’ll not tell you anymore, in case you wish to view it for yourselves.

    The film lost all its credibility for me when the pair were able to ‘suddenly’ start moving freely, while both having sustained major injuries. This is not possible. No amount of adrenaline could anaesthetise those injuries!

    And then there was the ending… oh dear…

    A comparison to Jaws? I think not!

     

  • Film (Re)View – IT Ends (IT, Chapter Two)

    This was never going to be my favourite out of the two films as it was never my favourite part of the novel. Why, you may ask? Simply because of what ‘IT’ turns out to be. Now, those of you who know me well, know that I like my monsters to be earthbound in some way. Monsters from outer space just don’t float my boat, no matter how earthly the wrapping.

    For the most part, I absolutely loved this film. It’s many years since I‘ve read the novel so I can’t remember how close it is to the original story (but you should know by now, books DO NOT translate exactly to screen), but the story woven is a compelling one.

    Twenty-seven years after they thought they’d destroyed Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the Losers’ Club is pulled back to Derry by the only club member never to leave – Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa). All return except Stanley Uris (Andy Bean), who struggled to make the pact in the first place. Stan, believing he would be more of a hinderance than a help, simply took himself out of the game.

    Twenty-seven years is the feeding cycle of Pennywise, and Mike is alerted to the fact they didn’t destroy it as they believed, when children begin to disappear again. No one who left Derry has any recollection of what happened; all they know is they have a scar on the palm of their hand relating to a pact they made to come back should ‘IT’ return.

    No sooner have they returned to Derry than the memories resurface, but when Mike tells them why he called them back, no one wants to stay. It is only by showing Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) the research he’d done on how to defeat ‘IT’ that Bill persuades Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Richie Tozier (Bill Haber), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan – yum!) and Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) to stay and defeat ‘IT’ once and for all.

    Their task – to each find something significant from their childhood to offer as a sacrifice.

    In seeking their sacrifice, each character is drawn back to a point in their past which helps them identify what they are looking for. Once they find it, and this is where the film went off track for me, they are all confronted by some crazed monster (except Bill, who has to face up to Georgie), obviously created by Pennywise to symbolise what they most fear. What the filmmakers should have done is have them face Pennywise.

    Once they have their sacrifices, they go to the old house where Pennywise resides as, according to the Indian legend Mike is getting them to follow, Pennywise’s lair is somewhere beneath the house. To destroy Pennywise, they have to get it to appear in its true form. To do that, they need the sacrifices.

    As you can imagine, things don’t go the way Mike led them to believe, and not everyone emerges unscathed, but you’ll have to watch it to find out more!

    For me, the film isn’t about defeating one ‘real-life’ monster, it is about standing up to your childhood fears and dispelling them. It is about accepting who you are and not being ashamed to show the world. It is about the importance of being you and following your path, wherever that may lead, and not letting anyone or anything derail you in the process. It confirms my viewpoint at the end of the film, when the scars disappear from their palms.

    Often, the demons that plague us aren’t real, and by continually telling ourselves this, we will eventually turn them to dust.

    A stellar cast proved a great credit to the imagination of my hero – Stephen King.

  • Film (Re)View – Annabelle Comes Home

    Love, love, love this latest outing from James Wan and The Conjuring Universe. This is how horror movies should be done! These guys can do no wrong in my book.

    The movie goes back to when Annabelle first came into the Warren’s possession (no pun intended). If you know the story of the doll, then you know it was ‘rescued’ by Ed and Lorraine after it had terrorised the nurse who’d received it as a gift. The movie begins here and the opening sequence charts the Warren’s trip home.

    En route they are re-routed due to a road traffic accident and their car breaks down outside a cemetery. As Ed goes to check the engine, Lorraine opens up the map, blocking the window and her view of the cemetery. This is where this franchise of films comes into its own, because we, the audience, are fully expecting something to appear outside that window, and so are on the edges of our seats – breath held, stomach in knots – but it doesn’t. Instead, a voice comes from behind her saying ‘I like your doll’, making the audience jump.

    Once home, the Warrens call a local priest to bless the doll before locking it securely in a glass case with the words ‘WARNING! Positively do not open.’ Well, we all know what happens when we’re not allowed to do something!

    The next day the Warrens go away on a case, leaving their daughter, Judy, in the care of her babysitter, Mary Ellen. We soon learn that Judy is picked on at school because of her parents’ occupation, but also that she is developing her mother’s skills as a psychic. Mary Ellen is planning a cosy night with Judy when her friend Daniela invites herself over. Daniela has recently lost her father and, blaming herself, she wants to get into the Warren’s ‘Occult Museum’ to see if she can make contact with him.

    As expected, Daniela gets into the room filled with all the haunted objects they’ve collected and, without realising it, she releases them. Disappointed at not seeing her father, she exits the room and pretends that nothing has happened until, that is, something does.

    The pace of this movie is just right. Full of jumps and scares, twists and turns, it keeps you in a constant state of tenseness and breathlessness.

    I cannot fault this film. As I said, for me, this is how horror movies should be. It’s not about what you are shown by the filmmakers, it’s about what you conjure up in your mind!

    I cannot wait for The Conjuring 3 next year!!

     

  • Film (Re)View – Midsommar

    It’s taken me a long time to write this review because, basically, I have been trying to make sense of the movie in my head. I haven’t succeeded!

    I went to see it with a friend of mine and at the end, I turned to her and said “well, that was a pile of crap, just like Hereditary”, but she said she’d really enjoyed it. Maybe I’ve judged it too harshly, I thought, hence my weeks of pondering. My conclusion is that I hadn’t judged it too harshly – the film was full of holes… in my opinion.

    The premise of the story is great. A group of guys have planned to go out to Sweden and participate in the mid summer festival held in the home village of one of the group, Pelle. Another member of the group – Christian – is going through a bad time with his long-term girlfriend, Dani, and his friends are encouraging him to dump her before they go off on their trip. Christian is on the brink of doing so, when Dani’s mentally ill sister murders their parents and herself, leaving Dani all alone. Christian doesn’t have the heart to break up with her and, instead, invites her to Sweden with them. The only one happy with this is Pelle who comments that he understands what it is like to lose a parent, as he had lost both his when he was a child.

    The movie jumps to Sweden and their arrival in Pelle’s home village, where it seems there is a mass migration of inhabitants back for the festival, each one seeming to have brought some outsiders with them. The first ‘unexplained’ strangeness happens here, when they are all required to take magic mushrooms (or something similar), and enjoy a trip which increases Dani’s paranoia, before they can enter the village.

    The village itself is quite primitive, reminding me of a cult commune more than a village, with everyone dressing the same and sleeping in the same huge room.

    Aster does succeed in setting you on edge here as it is obvious something is not quite right with the commune, but the cast are oblivious due to the magic mushrooms.

    The second ‘unexplained’ strangeness occurs on the first full day of their visit when there is a ceremonial breakfast for a middle-aged couple, who are then led off up to a clifftop where they proceed to jump to their deaths. The reason given is that when villagers reach a certain age (I can’t remember what it was) they kill themselves to relieve the other villagers of the burden of their demise… not a full explanation in my book.

    Again, Aster does the goriness of bodies that have hit solid rock from a considerable height very well, and the reaction of our small group is palpable.

    The third ‘unexplained’ strangeness is the fact that every 90 years the village performs ‘this’ ritual. The ritual itself is never explained, but it soon becomes evident that it involves sacrifice, hence the locals dragging in outsiders to take part. Aster forgets to explain why this ritual has to be performed and why it is outsiders, with the odd local offering themselves willingly, that have to be the offering. This is where the movie fell down for me. Had the whole Midsommar ritual been explained properly, whether it be told by Pelle, or the gang had found it in one of the village’s ‘oracles’, then it would have made all the difference to my view of the film.

    For me the movie just became a farce. From Christian having to have public sex with a local virgin (and impregnate her) to the excruciating singing and waling of the villagers.

    The only redeeming features for me were that Dani got her own back on Christian for the way he treated her, and also the impressive special effects. The suspension of disbelief just wasn’t there for me.

    This was not a film about how different tribes live. This was definitely a cult, and had things been explained properly, this could have been a fantastic movie.

    I have a feeling you need to consume magic mushrooms to make sense of it!

  • Film (Re)View – Child’s Play

    I must admit, I was a bit dubious about going to see this movie. After all, the original was so good, and I failed to see how they could improve on it, but the did. Well, maybe not improved on it, but they certainly delivered a knock out movie!

    I still have my reservations above Chucky himself, as he was almost laughable at the start of the movie, but once he was up and about, doing his own thing, he came to life… literally… well, almost.

    Instead of Chucky being possessed by a serial killer, this version has his ‘safety’ settings turned off by a much maligned employee who has just been fired. As such, Chucky has no filter, whether this be language, behaviour, or boundaries.

    He finds his way into Andy’s life through his mother, Karen. The Barclays have recently moved and Andy, who in this version is hearing impared, doesn’t really mix with other kids his age, choosing imstead to stay home and play video games. His mum, who works as a Customer Services Rep at the local toy store (I think it sells more than toys), convinces the warehouse guy not to send a recently returned ‘Buddi’ doll back to the manufacturer, because she wants to give it to Andy for his birthday.

    Predictably, Andy, who actually wants a new phone, is not impressed, but to keep his mum happy he starts to interact with the doll. Pretty soon they are ‘best buddies’ and Chucky (the doll named himself) starts to make it clear that he will do anything to protect his ‘best friend’.

    It is through teaming up with Pugg and Falyn, two kids who live in his apartment block, that Andy realises what Chucky is capable of and embarks on a mission to stop him.

    I do think this movie should have had an ’18’ rating, at the very least due to the kids walking around weilding knives, chainsaws etc. intent on destroying this doll. Yes, I know it is a doll, but if you watch the movie and take in a particular scene, you will understand where my thoughts come from.

    This movie is action-packed, necessarily gory, believable, and extremely well made. I have to say, I was impressed!

  • Film (Re)View – Ma

    Wow! Octavia Spencer is so good in the role of Sue Ann (aka Ma) and is bone-chillingly perfect for a horror movie role. Her facial expressions can go from happy and playful to murderous in seconds – perfect!

    Ma tells the story of Sue Ann, a middle-aged woman who was an outcast at school and who was cruelly led to believe the cool kids wanted her to be part of their gang. They played such a horrible trick on her it scarred her for life and allowed a deep-seated resentment and hatred to fester inside her.

    Maggie, the new kid in school, moves back to town with her mum, Erica. Erica used to be friends with Sue Ann and was accepted in to the gang, the same gang who were so cruel to Sue Ann, but Erica did nothing to help her friend.

    Maggie gets friendly with a group of kids from school, all the offspring of Sue Ann’s torturers. They hang around outside the liquor store trying to persuade people to buy them alcohol, as teenagers have done for many a generation. Sue Ann is one such person, and the only person who agrees to do it for them.

    And so begins Sue Ann’s tale of revenge, revenge which some might think is too slow a burn, but I disagree. The way she stalks and unsettles her prey is brilliant and culminates in a rather artistic way.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and feel Spencer played the stalker role to perfection. It should make those bullies out there sit up and wonder ‘what if’, should they bump into the person they used to prey on at school.

    Highly recommended!

     

  • Film (Re)View – The Curse of La Llorona

    I absolutely loved this film. It isn’t often I wholeheartedly say that about a horror movie, but this one did not disappoint. It was a film which kept me on edge all the way through as I was always wondering when La Llorona would strike – I like that!

    La Llorona is the weeping woman and her story is told to children to make them behave. The story dates back to 1673, when a beautiful young woman met and fell in love with a handsome young man. They had two sons and, for all intents and purposes, had a wonderful life, that is until he ran off with a younger model. In a fit of jealous rage, she took from him that which he held most dear – his children – drowning them in the stream. When she had calmed down and realised what she had done, she was horrified and took her own life in the same way. It is said that La Llorona walks the earth searching for children to replace her own and that if she touches you, you are marked by her tears (manifests as nasty burn marks resembling cigarette burns).

    The film follows Anna Garcia (Cardellini) and her two children. Anna is a social worker and is brought in on a case to investigate suspected child abuse. When she gets to her client, she finds the woman has locked her children in a closet for their protection. The marks on their arms leads authorities to suspect abuse. The death of these children leads to Anna’s own children becoming the target of La Llorona and she has to join forces with an ex-priest to destroy her.

    As well as the stomach gripping, breath-holding moments, the film also had a poignant moment when I wondered whether the children would ‘neutralise the threat’, but the unveiling of a mirror put paid to that!

    As with all scary movies, there has to be a way to destroy the ‘demon’, and James Wan used something which I have only seen in slasher films to do this. I will not tell you what it is, but if you have seen Friday 13th, then you know that Jason Voorhees Achilles’ heel is water from the lake in which he was drowned as a child. For me, this brings the story full circle, and I like that… a lot.

    Full marks to James Wan for this production, and I eagerly await his next Conjuring Universe instalment – Annabelle Comes Home. The trailer looked awesome!

     

  • Film (Re)View – Pet Sematary

    Brilliant! Awesome! Loved it! Everything I wanted and more!

    It’s been a while since I’ve posted a film review, as I’ve been waiting for my new website to go live. And I can’t think of a better horror film to launch my new site than Pet Sematary!

    You can probably tell by my intro I enjoyed the film, and I did; I loved it. For once, it was a horror movie of consistency, with a fantastically chilling ending.

    Now, I have yet to read the book (ordered last night) and so I am in a good position to be objective. Fans of the book may not be so charitable.

    The story revolves around a family moving out to the country to lead less stressful lives. Rachel, the mother, carries with her the childhood trauma of her sister’s death, but I think Lewis, the father, is also trying to escape something; you never find out what it is though. The couple have two children, Ellie aged 9 and Gage aged 2/3, plus they have a gorgeous cat called Church.

    The idyllic house they thought they’d moved to has one huge flaw – a main road along which huge tankers travel at breakneck speeds.

    Lewis is a doctor and on his first day he has to deal with the victim of a road traffic accident, the special effects on whom are out of this world, and the ghost of this boy haunts Lewis throughout the film. The ghost also says something to Lewis about not being able to go back once the barrier has been breached (I don’t know the exact wording). Again, this hints at something in Lewis’ past we, as the audience, do not know.

    The death of Church leads Lewis to discover, thanks to their elderly neighbour Jud, an ancient burial ground of sorts on his land, beyond the Pet Sematary. It is the soil of the burial ground that is important as, for reasons no one knows, it can bring things back from the dead. The critical morsel that Jud fails to tell Lewis is that things don’t come back the same, leading to the immortal line – ‘sometimes dead is better’.

    Church becomes evil personified and Lewis tries to get rid of him but fails, a failure that results in the horrific accident which seals the fate of the family and sends Lewis descending into madness.

    For those wanting a reproduction of the book, I think you will be sorely disappointed. The big giveaway that it is not true to the book is the credit of Matt Greenberg as the writer of the screen story (there was also a screenwriter).

    If you go to see it with an open mind, I fail to see how you cannot enjoy it. The acting, especially from the young actress who plays Ellie, is excellent, the special effects are spot on, the pace is good, the blood and gore is just right, and the thrills and chills are all there, especially at the end!

    Highly recommended!

  • Film (Re)View – Us

    Now, I know there are many people raving about this film, but I’m afraid I am NOT one of them. Having seen Get Out and loved it, I was waiting with bated breath for the next offering from Jordan Peele. I was very disappointed. This film is nowhere near the standard of Get Out.

    The opening credits show hundreds of caged rabbits, setting the scene for something which would probably be an experiment of some sort (which it was), but this is soon forgotten as the story unfolds and we see a young Adelaide Wilson coming face to face with her doppelganger, after wandering away from her arguing parents at a funfair.

    The film cuts there and jumps forward several decades to Adelaide returning to Santa Clara with her family, the ghosts of the past still troubling her. Her fears come true when four masked strangers appear in their driveway and force their way into the Wilson’s home. If that isn’t scary enough, the strangers have another shock in store for the Wilson’s when they remove their masks and reveal themselves to be the Wilson family’s alter egos, so to speak.

    Adelaide’s counterpart explains that they are the shadow side to the Wilson’s and that whatever the Wilson’s experienced in life, they experienced it far worse.

    At this point, I found this to be an extremely interesting story and started to think the film was depicting the two sides to our personalities – light vs dark, good vs evil etc. – with a battle ensuing to see which side would win out. I saw it as a way of ‘explaining’ why some people follow a virtuous path while others follow a path of sin. This idea cemented itself when I saw that it wasn’t only the Wilson’s that were affected, but the whole country, with the shadow people sometimes winning over the normal people, thus adding weight to my theory.

    Sadly, I was wrong, and the real meaning of these shadow people is actually some sort of government experiment, which made no sense whatsoever to me. The link to the ‘Hands Across America’ event passed me by as well.

    This film could have been sooooo good, but the reasoning for these shadow people made little sense and hence ruined the film.

    The film also didn’t seem to have a proper ending, which is a huge ‘no-no’ in my book.

    I’m not going to say don’t watch it, I’m just going to warn you to be prepared for confusion.