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  • 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.

  • Film (Re)View – Halloween

    Why would I say Michael is not my favourite? Well, it’s simply because I have never found him to be a believable character. When all is said and done, he is human, and yet he has come back from the dead so many times. Yes, these resurrections have been conveniently written to state that it wasn’t him who died, but still.

    So, why have I been eagerly awaiting this movie? Because this is not the next in the franchise, it is actually a direct sequel to the original movie. Yes, I know there was a sequel, but, being Hollywood, this has been brushed aside and this version is set 40 years after Michael was captured for the babysitter murders and incarcerated in Smith Grove Hospital. Given it is set on Halloween 2018, it is also futuristic! He is also no longer the brother of Laurie Strode, and yet he is still inexplicably obsessed with her.

    The movie opens with two ‘British’ reporters visiting Michael in Smith Grove and trying to get a reaction out of him by showing him his mask. It doesn’t work and they instead go to visit Laurie, who is equally closed lipped about the past.

    Due to the age of the case and the fact that Michael won’t talk, he is being moved to a more prison like hospital. It is during this transfer that he escapes, by somehow overpowering the bus and running it off the road.

    He then begins his somewhat indiscriminate killing spree, starting with those pesky journalists.

    The movie is very much in keeping with the original, from the credits to the Boogeyman references, the three teens walking through Haddonfield to the babysitting link, the ghostly shape under the sheet to the falling off the roof and then disappearing. They are all skillful homages to the original.

    What I really loved about the movie, and which I don’t think comes across as much in the original, is the cold, calm and dispassionate way in which Michael commits his murders. This in itself is chilling and shows clearly how a true psychopath views human life.

    John Carpenter has described Michael Myers as “almost a supernatural force – a force of nature. An evil force that’s loose, a force that is unkillable”. This is certainly true in this movie, when we see several attempts on his life which would have spelled the end for us mere mortals.

    I did thoroughly enjoy this movie. The filmmakers have created a believable world for us and, in some sense, a believable bad guy. I just can’t let go of the fact that he is human and not supernatural, but this in no way spoiled the movie for me.

    Look out for the ending, and let’s see what conclusion you come to for the future of the Halloween movies!

    As to why the Halloween movies remain so enduring, Director and Producer, Steve Miner, sums it up perfectly: “Michael Myers is enduring because he’s pure evil.”

    Enjoy and be brave; he doesn’t bite!

  • Film (Re)View – The Nun

    WOW! Yes, it’s in capitals, it isn’t a mistake. I was completely blown away by this film; The Conjuring universe never disappoints.

    I have talked in my blogs about the key to a great horror film being the right mix of terror (the build up) and horror (the release) and this movie has nailed it, which doesn’t surprise me, as all of the offerings from this franchise have delivered.

    Does it mean it scared the crap out of me? No, it doesn’t. Does it mean it had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen, craving the event almost? Yes, it does. You might be wondering where my release was, as you know we all need the release, and it came with the flutter in my heart and the smile on my lips.

    The Nun is a supernatural tale of an ancient “big bad” which had been imprisoned beneath a convent in Romania many moons ago. The nuns cloistered at the convent were the guardians, and their job was to ensure that no one came to break the seal (Christ’s blood) and let the evil back out. That’s all well and good, but ancient seals are no match for WWII bombs, and when one is dropped on the church it smashes the seal.

    Now, the response of the church to said problem is to ensure that the nuns cloistered there are constantly praying, to up the holy ante in the convent. Not only that, but the place is absolutely riddled with life-size crosses. To keep the evil out, you may think, but no; the crosses are to keep the evil in, should it escape…which it seemed prone to do.

    The evil had worked its way through the convent until the last nun took her own life, in a last ditch attempt to stop it ever escaping into the world at large.

    Suicide, as you may be aware, is a sin in the catholic church and so an investigative priest and a young nun, yet to take her vows, but blessed with second sight, are despatched to investigate, with the help of the local man who found the nun.

    I urge you to join Father Burke, Sister Irene and Frenchie as they embark on their investigation into why this nun took her own life. They are both helped and hindered by the nuns of the convent as they uncover the truth of what lies beneath the church, and battle to find a way to entomb it once more. The key lies in the aftermath of all Sister Irene’s visions – “Mary points the way.”

    Living nightmares, hallucinations, ghosts, possession, chills and bloodshed all combine to make this mystery, a horror movie worth seeing. As to whether there will be a sequel…I’ll let you decide ?

  • Film (Re)View – Slender Man

    It’s taken me a while to post this review as I’ve been trying to work this film out and, to be honest, have come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to work out. Slender Man is quite simply the product of nightmares and scare stories. Quite frankly, I think this is great. Isn’t this, after all, what all scary movies should be?

    When we were kids it was the products of our nightmares that used to scare us, and these nightmares, quite often, had no reason behind them; they just scared the crap out of us.

    As adults we try and find a justification for everything that scares us, maybe trying to ‘unscare’ ourselves by concocting a convincing story.

    Slender Man is a modern myth, invented not that long ago. Most myths are based in reality and I would love to know what created this one!

    In a similar vein to The Ring, Slender Man is summoned by watching a video and listening for the tolling bells. When you hear the bells, you’re supposed to close your eyes and focus. When the three tolls cease, you open your eyes and look into the film you are watching. For those truly drawn, you will see him.

    A harmless bit of scary fun you may think, well so did the young ladies whom the film follows. They watched the Slender Man video as the group of guys they were friendly with said they were going to watch it. As is expected, the girls didn’t wimp out, but the boys did.

    The legend of Slender Man says that once you have seen him you can’t unsee him, and he will either haunt you, send you mad, or, if you are lucky, he will take you. There are numerous videos on the internet of him praying on young children.

    He can be summoned, and this is what the girls tried to do after one of their own was taken. They offered up sacrifices (items that they truly loved) in exchange for her safe return, but it didn’t work. The sacrifice that Slender Man really required was something far more corporeal than that.

    I won’t say any more about the movie as it would take the edge of it for you. What I will say is that it is a very good supernatural movie and, whilst it didn’t scare me, it certainly had me on edge as to how it was going to play out.

    It is great to see a truly supernatural horror movie; a movie of nightmares. The filmmakers did a good job in convincing us that Slender Man is real AND in building a believable world around the myth.

    Definitely worth a watch, especially if you were plagued by senseless nightmares as a child.