Posts Tagged ‘horror’

Many would put the first Hostel right at the beginning of the ‘toture porn’ genre (even though there were many foreign films before featuring similar themes). This is probably because it was one of the first big mainstream US films to openely advertise itself as such. It was a pretty good little horror film and made enough money to get a sequel green lit.

Hostel 2 (directed by the same director as the first, Eli Roth) doesnt aim to do much differently from the first on the outset as we yet again have a group of backpackers (this time all females) who get caught in the sights of the ‘hunting club’. But upon watching the film its clear Eli Roth has a much clearer sense of world building and characterisation. It would have been so easy for him to have done a quick easy rehash of the first but i’m happy to say this feels fresh and tense.

The three female leads have an interesting dynamic between them that feels realistic thanks to a well written script that clearly has had a lot of thought put into it. It wont win any screenwriting awards but it is nice to see some well written characters in a genre that seems to thrive on the opposite. As there backpacking holiday quickly unravels each handle things very differently, which creates some very tense and quite thought provoking consequences.

This time round we also get an almost equal time following the people who are planning on commiting sadistic acts on these girls which also highlights how the club wirks and is organised. This for me is one of the highlights as its well thought out and gives everything another dimension.

While the film does feature strong violence and gore, it doesnt focus on it as much as one might expect. It also never feels out of place as it all benefits and guides the story along its path.

The final act features some truly great twists and turns all of which work well and help elevate this film from the usual genre tropes.

I never expected to like this film as much as i did. Its easily the best in the series and is well worth your time if you like tense horror thrillers.

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When any big horror franchise declares ‘the final chapter’ in it’s last films title, you can be sure the series will be back. This is sadly evident with this, the 8th film in the Saw franchise. Who’d have thought that 13 years after the first movie we’d have a massive franchise with a deep lore spanning across 8 movies.

The basic plot follows on from the original films while also trying to work a bit like a reboot to grab new fans. With murders seemingly being committed by Jigsaw and a series of sinister traps, cops try to solve the mystery before more people are killed.

It’s a plot similar to the old films in that it features traps and mystery but that is almost where the similarities end. Here the traps are even more over the top and silly, some of which are downright unbelievable. In the older films, no matter how extreme the traps got they were all feasible and kind of believable (apart from the opening trap from part 7 which from a logistics point of view just didn’t work). The ones featured in Jigsaw are just downright stupid and also rely far more on coincidence and luck rather then choice and sacrifice. In 1-7 the traps are beatable and were all meant to teach the victim something about themselves. In Jigsaw all of them rely on someone being in the right place at the right time and looking at the right thing at the exact right moment. It takes away a major sense of fear and tension while also dropping some of the fundamental plot points from the original films.

One of the big problems is that it isn’t filmed like a Saw picture. Over the course of the franchise the Saw films developed their own look and their own feel which was largely helped by the director Darren Lynn Bousman who was responsible for parts 2, 3 and 4. Here though the Spierig brothers seem to throw all of that out of the window to make a glossy modern day horror that just loses all of the atmosphere the look gave to the series. It almost feels like they’ve never watched a Saw movie and have simply made the film on the back of knowing parts of the overall story.

The film also isnt helped by the fact its not that well written (from what I gather not because of the writers, more the fact the directors changed so much). Many people bash the Saw franchise for just being violence for the sake of violence and for being nothing more then ‘torture porn’. This does the whole series a massive disservice as each film is tightly plotted and works as a stand alone film as well as playing a major part in the 1-7 overarching story. Taken as a whole I can happily say 1-7 as a whole story is fantastic and has a near perfect beginning, middle and end. Number 8 fails in this department by trying desperately to link itself into the 1-7 story and failing pretty badly. It’s almost like they couldn’t think of a new idea so they just pasted over some of the plot points from the franchise and tried to slot themselves into the story. The Spierig brothers rely so much on a massive plot point towards the end of the film that just doesn’t work. It’s meant to tie everything together but it fails in every way. It’s poorly constructed and so ridiculously flawed it’s almost laughable.

Ultimately the film is entirely unneeded. The seventh film ended the franchise on a near perfect note and almost brought the series full circle. This just feels like a cash grab and a poor man’s wannabe Saw flick. That said, there are much worse films out there and it is still very watchable. If it wasn’t part of such a well known franchise it would be an ok horror thriller. As it stands it’s a watchable but very average imitation of a series many have grown to love.

It’s a real shame that it just doesn’t work as there are moments when it almost works. I hope they don’t make anymore because as much as I love 1-7 I don’t want to see them drive this franchise into the gutter.

Der Todesking is the 2nd film by Jorg Buttgereit following his cult hit Nekromantik. Both have the similar violent episodes and graphic ideas, but der Todesking is a much more serious film and doesn’t rely on special effects to get its deep and quite powerful message across.

The film is a series of 7 shorts covering each day of the week and focusing on a different individual. Each short is linked by the theme of suicide or death with the linking tool being a chain letter explaining why death is the only option.

Devoid of pretty much all humour, der Todesking presents a stunning nihilistic view on life and humanity. There’s No one trying to stop these suicides, no one mourning the loss. It’s a stark, realistic portrayal on the subject and one that is unlike pretty much anything else.

Some of the segments are stronger then others but none are bad. Wednesday is especially poignant and powerful as it used no dialogue, no characters and no violence instead it features a suicide bridge and the names of some who have jumped from it. I got the same feeling from it that I got from the documentary ‘the Bridge’ which focused on suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge. To evoke such emotion using little other then names and film of a concert bridge is quite remarkable and it’s a great feat of filmmaking. It would have been easy to just film people jumping off the bridge but instead Buttgereit reigns it back and uses simplicity and minimalism and in doing so creates something remarkable.

Saturday is the other day that stands out as with recent shootings around the world it rings very true. It consists of a woman filming herself shooting people during a concert. No reason for it and no justification, just a shooting. It’s scary because it feels pretty real.

The no justification is a theme that runs through the film and is one of the things that makes it stand out. We as order a want to know why something is happening and not knowing scares us. By presenting the segments in this way Buttgereit has created a far more powerful and far more real film.

Gore is at a minimum here as well which is a surprise considering the visual effects of Nekromantik. The goriest moments are a decomposing body that works s a bridge between days. This decision is another smart one as itdoesnt distract from the deep message the film is conveying.

The soundtrack is fascinating as well as it’s nothing like you’d expect (unless you have seen Nekromantik). It doesn’t always 100% gel but it’s always great. When it does work it just merges with the visuals creating a sensationally strong experience.

All in all der Todesking is a remarkable film that defies genre and really is unlike anything else. I wouldn’t call it a happy film you can pop on, grab the popcorn and enjoy. I’d say it is a film that strikes fast and hard and drives home a powerful and important message about suicide and death. It doesn’t glorify it like most horror films, it doesn’t portray it as good or bad, just a thing that happens.

As an experience I cannot recommend it enough. Yes it is slightly dated in places but it doesn’t really affect the impact. It’s definitely not for everyone. I imagine the audience for it is quite small but I urge any intrigued to watch it. It’s fascinating, powerful and thought provoking filmmaking at it’s best.

Written by James Gunn (director of Guardians of the Galaxy 1& 2 and writer of films such as Tromeo and Juliet) Belko Experiment feels like a refreshing hark back to something like Lord of the flies.

A group of employees are locked in a building and are told to kill each if he, otherwise a bomb charge in the back of their skull with detonate. It’s a very simple pemise and one similar to any number of films such as Battle Royale or even Hunger Games. But the office environment gives it a new spin.

At the start no one wants to kill but as the film progresses we all know some are going to change their minds. Gunn gets creative in his writing and keeps throwing in new rules to keep the film fresh and entertaining. Everything leads to a truly great ending which keeps he momentum going until the very last image.

I loved how the film didn’t wait around. There’s always something new happening as we jump between the small groups of people. It would have been easy for the film to get boring and repetitive but it never does.

The cast are great and really work well together. It’s amazing how many pretty big names there are in the film, even if some feel like small cameos for James Gunn (Michael Rooker for example is in almost all of Gunn’s films). Many of these actors play roles very different from their usual styles.

Although directed by Greg McLean it really does feel like and early James Gunn film. It’s fast, witty and violent, all things that Gunn does really well. It’s a breath of of tense almost horror. It’s well worth checking out.

Nowadays horror films seem to be the gateway into film making. I’m guessing it’s because it can be a cheaper genre to make a film within, as playing on a person’s fears often doesn’t need that much help.

Lights Out, based on the directors earlier film short is a perfect example of how clever use of atmosphere, a clever script and some good acting can for a smallish budget, create a film that stands out amongst the overcrowded genre.

The basic premise is a family are being ‘haunted’ by a malevolent force and the only way to stay safe is to stay in the light. There’s much more to the story though and watching it unfold is another one of the films strong points.

Unlike many horror films, Lights Out shows you the ‘monster’ very early on and also introduces the main plot device of ‘stay in the light’ at the same time. By doing so it gives the film much more time to focus on the characters and the ‘why’. It’s a clever use of pacing and one that really pays off. It’s not the first film to use light as a safety measure, but it is one of the best.

At times I was very much reminded of the 2003 film Darkness Falls (previously reviewed) as that has a very similar idea of ‘stay in the light and your safe’. The big difference here is that Lights Out is a good film. Whereas that film relied on jump scares, this film builds a great atmosphere in which you never feel safe. Every shadow, every bit of shade becomes a danger.

There are some very clever moments that play on preconceptions. This is especially true of some of the characters as they all feel like natural people and not the over the top caricatures we often see in films like this. The film also heads in some interesting directions which I didn’t expect which I was really happy with.

It’s rare for a film to work on pretty much all levels but Lights Out achieves it. I’m not sure if it’s because I went in with no expectations or not (although I don’t think it is) but this may be one of the most enjoyable and good horror films in recent years.

Highly recommended

There’s really no way of truly capturing what Valhalla Rising is in words as it’s something in itself. It feels unlike anything else, yet still feels slightly familiar.

The story concerns the journey of One Eye a mute prisoner held captive by a Norse chieftain who uses him as a fighter. All we know about One Eye is that he is a brutal killer who brings fear to those who have heard about him. At one point when we meet some crusaders one mentions that One Eye was born of hell and would take all those around him back there.

The story is split into acts like a play with each having their own feel and their own theme. They all slowly build to a brilliantly beautiful finale. The film never rushes itself and unfurled expertly. It’s reminiscent of foreign sci fi film Stalker in the way the world plays as much of a role as the characters.

We begin with some brutal fight sequences which are juxtaposed with slow scenic shots ofthe harsh mountains. It works perfectly and really sets tge tone. There is a segment around the halfway Mark that does drag a little but other then that the pacing is pretty much spot on. We see a nie evolution of One Eyes character as his journey progresses, yet we find out little about him.

The acting is phenomenal with Mads Mikkelson giving a ferocious and powerful performance that is so deep even though he doesn’t say a word. The supporting cast hold their own as well, with Maarten Stevenson giving a great performance as the young boy who travels with One Eye.

I will admit it took me a few viewings before I truly appreciated the complexity of one eye’s journey across the world but when I sat down and watched it with a fresh mind I was blown away. Those expecting a Norse action film as quite a lot if the promotional material gave the impression of will be sorely disappointed. If you want a movie that holds your hand and gives you all the answers, again tho film isn’t for you.

If however you want a film that takes you on a journey through darkness and light I’d highly recommend giving the film a go. It won’t be for everyone but I do believe it’s a film that needs to be experienced.

12 years went by since The Ring 2 and some studio exec decided what we need is another film in the series. Did we really need another film? The original Ringu series did have 3 films (4 if you include the original 2nd film that was renamed Spiral) and a couple of spin offs but all of those kind of worked and built on the haunted videotape mythos. This film both attempts to continue the story of the American series while also giving a reboot feeling.

If the opening of a film is meant to grab the viewers attention and semi dictate the quality you are to expect, Rings fails laughably. We have what can only be described as a terrible combination of final destination and a horror spoof. It’s actually an interesting idea setting the beginning on a plane, it’s just that it’s so badly handled it’s silly.

On the plus with such a terrible opening it can only get better, which it does do but not by much. We have a series of dull moments meant to shock but most fall flat. There are some interesting ideas going on but they don’t quite work. The ending was actually pretty good though. It’s pretty stupid but it’s done interestingly and I guess sets up another film if they decided to do one.

They do change a fair chunk of the ring myths and introduce new things such as another video. It all feels unnecessary, but I guess they had to try something new. Even the old video seems different from the one in the other films. This helps gives the feeling that this film is a reboot, yet it still expects you to know some of the backstory.

One of the things that raises the quality of the film is the inclusion of actor Johnny Galecki who many would know from Big Bang Theory. It’s nice seeing him in something completely different, as the last horror film I remember seeing him in was I Know What You Did Last Summer. He’s great in the film and makes it watchable, it’s just a shame he doesn’t have a better script to work from.

The special effects are passable with even the classic image of Samara climbing out of a television coming across as cheap. The scares are near non existent and there is very little tension and atmosphere. I think the only teen moment I remember is towards the start where Johnny Galecki is sitting in his apartment, illuminated by sree lights as it pours down with rain outside. A pivotal scene later on that is meant to be full of tense drama just feels very meh.

For a sequel that never needed making, I applaud them for trying to introduce some interesting new ideas. It’s just a shame that most fall flat. I wouldn’t call it a terrible film, it’s just not very good. You’re better off sticking with the original Ringu series or just pretending like this one never happened.

Blind army veteran VS 3 burglars = one hell of a tense film.

The home invasion film has been done to death over the years, from kids films like Home Alone, to more adult films like Strangers and Panic Room. It’s a genre which for the most part works due to the semi relateability of the fear of intruders in your home. The problem is there is only so many times you can see the same thing happen time and time again with just a new family to differentiate the films. 2011’s film You’re Next tried to turn things around with its fun twists and clever pacing and for the most part worked.

2016’s Don’t Breathe aims to get again create something fresh in a seemingly stale genre and it’s nice to say it really works.

The basic premise is 3 burglars break into a house of a blind military veteran but are quickly outwitted when he wakes up and isn’t happy having intruders.

The film is tense from the outset and only magnify as it progresses. Stephen Lang gives a phenomenally creepy performance as the blind man (who seemingly has no name). His whole house becomes an extension of him. Every creaking floorboard, every little noise it’s all part of him and it allows I’m to ignore his blindness and know exactly where the burglars are.

It’s interesting to look at the blind man as he is neither villian or hero. Ultimately his house has been broken into and he is depending himself, but as an audience we are pushed towards rooting for Rocky the sole female of the trio of burglars. For me I was rooting entirely for he blind man and saw him as the anti hero of the piece. It of course unfurls that the blind man might not be as nice and clean as he seems, but that didn’t stop me avidly watching to see if he could kill the three burglars.

I’m not sure if it was intended this way or if it just happens that Lang gives a stronger and more powerful performance then the others but I found it worked. If it wasn’t meant to be this way round then the film kind of fails as the burglars as all unlikable thrives who deserve everything they get.

The direction is great and the law if the film flows beautifully as it builds to the final confrontation (which is both turns good and bad) the film doesn’t freely on jump scares as it prefers to use a slow build up of tension. It’s a remarkably well crafted horror thriller.

If I have any negatives to say about the film they would have to be surrounding the unlikable burglars who I just want to die and the lackluster ending. They aren’t deal breakers as the rest of the film is so strong, but they do detract a little from the film as a whole.

I really enjoyed the film and feel it is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the horror genre. I give it a strong reccomendation.

With so many horror films being pumped out in recent years, it’s easy to see the genre as stale and unoriginal, but in amongst all of the remakes, sequels and zombie films there are some truly great gems. Get Out is one of them.

Going into the film I had no expectations and knew nothing about it apart from what the poster showed me (A screaming man in a chair), which really wasn’t much. What I Got was an intense horror thriller that constantly kept me on the edge of my seat.

Actor Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a young African-American who visits his white girlfriend’s parents on a secluded estate in the middle of the woods. What starts as a happy romantic trip quickly spirals into something much different.

In a way the film is reminiscent of the original Wicker-man film in the whole ‘outsider trying to figure out what’s happening’ sense. And it works. Throughout the film there is always something that feels ‘off’ with everyone, something not quite right. This feeling builds at a nice rate as the story evolves and begins explaing itself. Some moments are quute predictable when you see the ditection the film is heading but that doesnt detract from the quality. The acting is great from everyone and every character plays their part in the story. The writing really does help fully flesh out each character and make them feel unique.

Direction and writing are great with both allowing the film to flow at a brisk pace and taking the viewer through a refreshingly fresh tale. It’s rare that a film works from opening image through to credits but this film does and the ending is perfect.

It’s hard to not instantly see the messages about racism both in an historical sense, but also in the now. The film makes some powerful points which many could learn from as racism, as we all know is something that is always around no matter how much people pretend it isn’t. Right at the start of the film Chris asks his girlfriend ‘do your parents know I’m black?’ Her response is to shrug it off like it doesn’t matter. It’s scary that we live in a world where even today the colour of one’s skin effects how people treat you. Even scarier is that the people in charge of some of the most powerful countries in the world allow this and sometimes openly encourage it.

These messages run rife through the film and help give a good base to everyone’s mindsets. What is good is that this provides a level of gritty realism to proceedings. The horror is never forced and never relies on silly jump scares. It’s all about creating tension and intensity through the characters and the script.

I recommend this film whole-heartedly and feel it is one of those horror films that will stay long after it has finished.

blair

I’ll begin by saying that the first Blair Witch Project film is easily one of my favourite horror films of all time even if many cast it off as a basic found footage film of people running around the woods. It was pivotal at the time and say what you will, but it did change horror cinema and pretty much spawned the found footage horror genre.  One of the big things that made it work so much is that there was very little script and the directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez let the actors improvise in a very loose filming style. It was fascinating to watch and stunningly made when you consider the size of the crew and budget.

The first film also has the benefit of being very ‘new’ and with social media very much on the rise, managed to latch on and create this feeling that the film was actually a real documentary. For me it worked and was nigh on perfect for what it tried to do.

In 2000 a sequel was made that was interesting as it had some interesting uses of the original films ‘footage’ but ultimately it was pretty terrible and the less said the better.

This leads us to the 2016 sequel to the original film. it completely ignores the events of ‘The Blair Witch project 2: Book of Shadows’ and tells a tale following the brother of one of the original characters who is still trying to find out what really happened to her.

17 years have passed since the making of the first film and technology has advanced greatly with tiny attachable cameras and flying drones. Wingrad has decided that he will utilise all of these and that is one of the biggest faults of the film. It never feels like a found footage film, it all looks to pristine and the shots are all so obviously framed and staged it is almost embarrassing.  Gone is any of the realism of the original, now we have what looks like a glossy low budget horror film and that is a real shame.

The script is beyond terrible and never feels natural. It would have been nice to actually delve into the history of the tale of the Blair witch a little more as from what I’ve seen through the other media based on the film (such as games, books, comics and even Book of Shadows)there is a deep lore to everything which is only hinted on in the original film. here we just have a series of loose jump scares linked with some really ropey dialogue.

the film had none of the dread that one would expect, there is no tension and it relies on getting any form of scare across by using either average jump scares like people literally bursting out of bushes, or using rally loud transitions into new scenes.  Neither work on any form of level other then being annoying.

Wingrad in my view had a lot of luck when he made the film ‘You’re Next’ which I find is actually an enjoyable horror film. Everything else he has made is pretty terrible and he really hasn’t proven that he is a particularly competent filmmaker. It’s sad as you can see in him that there is the hint of something special but with Blair Witch he just destroys all credibility he may have had.

I’d say it isn’t worth any amount of your time and to be fair you’d be better off watching ‘The Blair Witch Project: Book of Shadows’ as at least that film had a few interesting ideas albeit badly executed. This is a poor imitation of the fantastic original and really is so incredibly disappointing. 2/10