Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lake Nowhere [2015]


Over the last few years, throwbacks, retros, homages, call them what you will, are kinda sorta the new found footage of horror.  And it's no surprise since the sub-genre has had its share of fairly successful installments, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009), V/H/S (2012-2014), and THE EDITOR (2014) to name just a few.  But most can't hold a candle to the good ones, and stack up even worse than the actual 35 year old films they're trying to nod to.  But LAKE NOWHERE should be proud to land somewhere in the middle.

A group of 20-somethings arrive at a family cottage for some weekend R&R and B&B (boozin' and bangin').  It isn't long before one friend goes skinny dippin', a second hangs a clothesline, a couple play around with a revolver, and another discovers an oddly placed cemetery where one read-aloud epitaph invokes a savage mask-wearing lake demon.  Drinks are drank, tokes are toked, kids are killed and we all get to see the most instantly-legendary party game involving only a brown paper bag.

Filmmakers Christopher Phelps and Maxim Van Scoy hit the 80's slasher formula nail right on the head.  From the synth score, ensemble cast, respectable body count, blood in buckets, and various bladed murder weapons to the premarital sex and inability to escape an out-runnable masked killer.  Equally impressive were their disinterest in heavily leaning on satirical humor or trying to overcorrect the typical slasher misgivings.

LAKE NOWHERE isn't without flaws.  The killer is laughably amateurish looking and almost non-scary and it's kills are uninspiringly unoriginal, although violent and bloody enough.  But what do you expect on a 1 paycheck budget, shot over 6 days with friends and family?!?!

LAKE NOWHERE isn't for every horror fan, hell, it isn't even for every slasher fan.  But there's a handful that will fall in love with this little engine that could.  And hopefully those few will be enough to give Phelps and Van Scoy the resources for a feature-length debut.


Monday, August 22, 2016

The Nightmare [2015]


 Have you ever woken from a nightmare, not being able to move, and being visited by dark creatures appearing to steal your soul?!?!  Good, neither have the 8 dweebs, burnouts, psycho-broads, and foodstampers featured in Rodney Ascher's new documentary exploring the made-up phenomenon of sleep paralysis.

Featured stars aside, THE NIGHTMARE also co-stars absolutely not a single clinical researcher or doctor.  Only the director himself, joining these sufferers, "thank you for being here, show me on the skeleton where the shadow people touched you."

The documentary goes through the early stages of the condition, how it progresses, and what the afflicted have done to lessen the episodes.  Each segment ends with a visual fictional interpretation, which I've been told that some find extremely scary.

But I really can't figure out what's scary about metaphysical creatures showing up in someone's bedroom and not doing anything...sure there was one guy who claimed a stuffed toy vending machine claw grabbed his dick and the fat girl assured us that she was demon raped...yet didn't feel a me it just sounds like someone forgot to do their kegels after a 6 month relationship with a BBD.

The subjects themselves, outside of 1, seem incredibly discreditable.  So I can't fathom how anyone would find this believable.  Especially when most were self-diagnosed by the internet, and the commonalities (red eyes, figure with a hat, shadowy beings) of the beings visiting them could entirely be group influenced.

And when one of your subjects draws you a picture like this and says this is what visits me at night, you pack up your shit and find yourself your next victim.  

All the garbage aside, THE NIGHTMARE is in fact visually stunning.  The lighting, set design and shadowy beings are breathtakingly beautiful on screen.  Thumbs up to that dude.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hush [2016]

HUSH [2016]

 It has been 10 years since a home invasion horror captivated me so intensely, when ILS (2006) used its set pieces, mysterious antagonists, and rural setting so effectively that it made nights alone at the cottage almost pathetically unbearable.  Nights were scary, mysterious unmotivated killers were scary and silence was scary, and HUSH takes the latter to its limits.

Maddie is deaf mute living on her own in a secluded cabin while she completes her next big suspense novel.  What seemed like an ordinary day turns into a hellish night when a killer arrives and choose her for his next game of cat and mouse.

HUSH opens with a quick synopsis of the life of a deaf mute but actually does this is a very non-cliche and non-forced way.  Director/writer Mike Flanagan could have easily and unknowingly fell victim to the "gimmick opening", where filmmakers use the opening scenes to explain and describe the set of parameters the movies characters will be limited by, or a summation scene like STAR WARS's opening crawl text.  But instead he uses intense sounds and zoomed-in visuals to create the world of deaf mute, not unlike the brilliant opening of television's DEXTER.  

HUSH comes in at a lean 81 minutes and 70 of those minutes is an edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding thrill ride full of intense scares, unexpected twists, changing upper hands, and ultra-real resolve.  At no point did the film use the characters disability as a crutch in which the suspense depended on, it only built from it.  Nor did it seem like a film trying to exploit a gimmick.  It all just seemed a part of the package.

[Spoiler Start] One knock on HUSH was the shockingly early unmasking of our masked killer.  And I've toiled with the would I have or wouldn't I have if I was at the film's helm.  But I think Flanagan does this on purpose, not knowing the identity of our killer would be playing on the minds of viewers until that moment he's revealed, and what a let down that would be to find out he's no one.  I'm sure unmasking him early took a little less scare out of "The Man" but if it took a lot of risk out of the inevitable letdown viewers would have felt having him without a backstory it was worth the cost.[Spoiler End]

The SFX team also knocked one out of the park.  We see mangled hands, corkscrew caverns, and brick to head bashes to go along with the regular stabbings and crossbow punctures.  

Smart script, great scares, good gore.  What more can you ask for?  Highly recommended.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Bite [2015]

Bite [2015]

 Despite showcasing some of the best body-horror SFX of the 2010's, BITE falls short in almost all other components of an effective and successful modern horror.

"It's been this you or me?"

Sex starved Casey and her two bridesmaids venture down to Costa Rica for a little "let loose-ing" before she gets married by her mother-in-law controlled fiancee.  It isn't long before she gets all SEX AND THE CITY'd up on margaritas and pina colodas, cheats on her investment banker, and gets bit by the mysterious swimming, flying, super dragonfly.  Shortly after arriving home she is as horny as ever, grows a tail, and barfs bubble tea.

"Casey, what happened to you?  And why am I ignoring the obvious these insect orgy apartment decorations?!?!"

Severely hindered by an amateurish script, plasticine actors and zero subtance BITE hobbles along in between incredible special effect pieces which carry the film past mediocrity.  BITE's attempts at dark humor are childish and head shake inducing.  And lead actress, Elma Bergovic, can't save it with her creepy eye contacts and neck twitch method acting.

"Honey, we're expecting...millions."

It worth a looksy for any horror completist, but is an easy pass for anyone looking for the next big thing in horror.  


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Other Side of the Door [2016]

The Other Side of the Door [2016]

Review in a jiffy:
Failed attempt at creating an effective Asian ghost story because pianos are awesome, white people aint scary, and we all love Old Greg.  

 Possible Working Titles:
White Woman No Listen
Daddy Never Home



Saturday, January 2, 2016

Let Us Prey [2014]

Let Us Prey [2014]

Although not any small component of Brian O'Malley's feature length debut, Let Us Prey, is Earth shatteringly great, it's a complete and genuinely satisfying package of gore and blood, gripping tension, interesting story and capable cast.

In a town where it seems every criminal, citizen and police officer is a murderer, a Grim Reaper-like figure arrives to ensure "that the price of our sins is paid for in blood".  A first day on the job officer is left to piece together the mystery of the entity and the darkest secrets of everyone in the station.

Possibly describable as Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) where the terror is actually inside the police station, Let Us Prey was a treat to watch.  O'Malley knows how to build the characters, pace the story, and put the foot down on the gas pedal when necessary; not to mention how to deliver some truly epic level kills.

Despite all of the entertainment value of Let Us Prey, it's a shallow pool of water.  There is little to no originality, and nothing presented or hinted at outside of the narrative.  But sometimes that's all a horror film needs to be, entertaining.  So if you can shut your brain off, handle a healthy dose of violent death, and swallow a truly absurd ending Let Us Prey is totally worth spending an hour and a half on.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Horsehead [2014]

Horsehead [2014]

Romain Basset's feature length debut is an atmospheric and visually stunning film to watch, but to sit through, that's a completely different endeavour.

While away at school Jessica studies within the field of psychophysiology with an emphasis on lucid dreams (dreaming while being aware that you're dreaming), an interest prompted by her lifelong troubles of inescapable nightmares.  At the request of her mother, Jessica returns home for the first time in 3 years to attend the wake of her late grandmother.  

Possibly provoked by longstanding questions surrounding the mystery of her biological father and a strained relationship with her mother Jessica becomes feverishly ill and her nightmares worsen. 

When her lucid dreams begin the to suggest answers to her deeply embedded family mysteries she's lead toward a downward spiral where dreams and reality intertwine and things buried become uprooted.

If Argento-ish color, visual artistry, gallons of blood, and a pulsing score were the only ingredients needed for an epic horror The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears (2013) wouldn't have been a complete failure.  

But Horsehead is drunk with symbolism, proposes more questions than answers, and the score's more disruptive than menacing.  No matter how many creepy stepdads, incestual imaginings, It's a classic case of style over substance.