Tag Archives: horror movies

SXSW: Game Of Death

Laurence Morais Lagacé and Sebastien Landry are two young Canadian directors who apparently have wild and sick imaginations.

A bunch of teenagers, who’ve already had the sex and done the drugs, are just bored Game-of-Deathenough to try a dusty old board game, Game Of Death. They should have read the instructions first – once engaged, the game counts down the 24 people necessary TO MURDER in order to “win.” The game doesn’t stop until 24 are dead. When the clock runs out, if no one is killed, the game itself will execute a player. How stoned would you have to be for this to sound fun?

They do what any normal teenagers would: beer bongs. But failing to take this game seriously is a fatal mistake: when the clock runs out, one of the characters’ heads explodes. Like, explosively explodes. Yes, I know, I’m quite the colourful writer! Bow down if you must.

At any rate, this game is For Real. Now there are 23 left to be killed and some interesting choices to be made. Will the kids turn on each other, prey on their neighbours, or sit back and wait for their own skulls to go bust?

Interesting fact about teenagers: they are devoid of morals. Apparently. And video games have definitely made them callous!

Interesting fact about me: I cannot spend an hour and a half listening to a teenaged girl game-of-death-F69597cry. I assume this the same is also true of teenaged boys. I understand that some people cry under pressure, but for the sake of watchable movies, I think film makers need to dispense of this annoying soundtrack.

Interesting fact about this movie: exploding heads are NOT the most disturbing thing about it.

Should you watch it? Hey man, no judgments. There’s no real horror here; no anxiety, no foreboding, no creepiness, just straight up gore and blood lust, plenty of both, and some gratuitous bikini shots thrown in. Perfect guilt-watch?

 

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SXSW: Two Pigeons

I can admit when I’m wrong.

Okay, no I can’t. But I’m going to make an exception here. You know I don’t handle horror well and so I didn’t make 2 Pigeons a high priority at SXSW, despite it having an interesting premise. And you know, about 10 seconds into the film, I realized that I was wrong. It’s already better looking and better sounding than I could have imagined.

Hussein (Mim Shaikh) is an untidy, unscrupulous estate agent; the film’s press release describes him as “oily, amoral” but I confess to two-pigeons-F71465-thumb-860xauto-65830sort of liking him, probably mostly for his loud, flashy suits. Hussein seems like a pretty regular bloke. He gets up, brushes his teeth, hustles his clients, masturbates, goes to bed, does it again. But when Hussein leaves his apartment, we realize he isn’t so regular after all. He doesn’t know it, but he’s got an uninvited, unseen guest living in his home. Orlan (Javier Botet) only comes out at night, or when Hussein’s at work. Why is he doing this? And for how long? Only his dangerously thin frame hints at a time frame no one is comfortable with.

Turns out, this isn’t so much a horror as a super creepy movie. I could possibly handle a stranger secretly living beneath my bed, but I CANNOT abide by a stranger “recycling” his mouthwash back into our (secretly, to me) communal bottle, or using my face cloth in areas of the body that are NOT THE FACE. Although, note to anyone secretly living in my home right now: please, please avail yourself of whatever breakfast cereal you like. All you can eat. I promise, I eat the stuff so rarely I won’t even notice.

But back to the why: this guy isn’t just getting a free ride, he’s fucking with his landlord-dupe. This movie seriously preys on our unconscious fears: that even with our doors safely locked, our bodies, our safety, our personal space are not inviolable while we sleep. Every day, Orlan’s violation and desecration escalates. YOUR SKIN WILL CRAWL.

The one problem I had with the film is how unperceptive Hussein is. It feels just a tad too much that no matter how far Orlan takes the transgressions, Hussein just kind of shrugs it off. And the harder Orlan works at being disgusting, the more personal it seems. And yet director Dominic Bridges keeps us in the dark for far too long.

So that’s it. That’s as far as I’ll take you. Should you watch it? That depends entirely on the iron in your stomach.

 

 

SXSW: Lake Bodom

True story: in June 1960, four kids (two 15-year-old girls and their 18-year-old boyfriends) went camping. Three of them were found dead, stabbed and bludgeoned to death; the fourth was bloodied and blank, with no recollection of the violent attack. This case has remain unsolved in Finland for nearly 6 decades, but theories have turned into legends, and this film is born of those campfire ashes.

In Lake Bodom, Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla) is obsessed with lake-bodom-2016-movie-featuredthe murders. He talks his friend Elias (Mikael Gabriel) into helping him recreate them, hoping to solve them once and for all, but Elias is in it for the sex, not so much the solving. They coax along two best friends who think they’re going on a very different trip – Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) is happy to escape her oppressively-religious home life, and Nora (Mimosa Willamo) is just happy to spend time with Ida.

Since this is a horror movie, you know what’s coming next: this isn’t just a recreation. Shit goes down! But Lake Bodom isn’t quite as predictable or straight-up as that. There’s a series of twists that defy expectation, melding several horror tropes into a single film, keeping you guessing and interested and creeped the fuck out. This film looks better than any horror film has to. Some of the shots are full-stop beautiful, which only adds to the ambiance. Atmospheric and well-paced, Lake Bodom provides thrills and anxiety in equal measure, earning every drop of blood splashed across the screen.

Lake Bodom has a relatively low body count, but if you’re in it for the gore, no worries: it makes each one count. In detail. Graphic, brutal detail. Fans of horror who are tired of the same old thing are going to love this. Well, love and hate this. It really is quite scary and maybe not as “fun” as a traditional slasher flick – there’s real meat here, if you can stomach it.

Lake Bodom will be released exclusively on Shudder May 2017.

 

 

 

SXSW: Alien & Alien: Covenant Sneak Peek

alien-F71972Anytime you get a chance to watch Alien with Sir Ridley Scott, you take it. How great is it that we got that chance?  Even better, Scott was not alone. He brought Alien: Covenant footage with him, as well as Covenant stars Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, and Michael Fassbender. An entertaining Q&A took place after the bulk of the new footage. We didn’t learn any big secrets but it’s obvious that all three actors were thrilled to have had the chance to work with Scott, particularly McBride who joked that his parents were thrilled he was finally making a real movie.

ridley-scott-F71972The new footage proves that Scott is not afraid to rip himself off, and that’s great news as far as I’m concerned. You would expect Alien: Covenant to bear at least a passing resemblance to Alien (as the former’s purpose, aside from making tons of money, is to bridge the gap between Prometheus and the original quadrilogy. But the similarities are greater than that, they’re intentional callbacks to the original.  That made the footage from Covenant FEEL like Alien, as it took us to the same places that Alien did, only now we know what’s going to happen (and what has to happen). Scott delivers on his setups with glee, letting us know he’s right there with us. A facehugger scene featuring Billy Crudup was especially awesome. It’s a good bet there will be more moments like that in the footage still to come.

If the rest of the movie measures up to the three full scenes we were treated to then Alien: Covenant is going to be a must-see for anyone who is a fan of the original. And I’m guessing you’re a fan if you are reading this. This one could be great. I’m now super excited to see it when it opens May 19th. And if Scott is available for another screening then, all the better. Fingers crossed!

There’s much more to come from SXSW. Check out @assholemovies for more movies and photos as things happen!

Get Out

You all know I’m a chicken shit, so even though I was curious about Jordan Peele’s foray into the horror genre, I still stayed the hell away. So far 2017 has been a banner year for me in terms of a) Not peeing my pants in movie theatre seats and b) Not bursting the blood vessels in my eyes out of sheer panic. But…you all spoke so highly of it. You tricked me into thinking I could take it. I’m looking at you, Jane.  She made me believe in myself, goddammit. Totally unwarranted!

The movie itself lulled me into complacency. Chris is a city boy and a photographer, and like many men, he refuses to own nice luggage (the duffel bag thing is creepy and played out guys). Nothing scary there. Daniel Kaluuya is a pleasant surprise in the lead role, affable if somewhat guarded. He strikes me as reasonable right from the beginning, which is nice in a horror film, which are usually filled with air heads who don’t know enough TO NOT GO INTO THE BASEMENT\WOODS\DARK ALLEY. When some vaguely racist shit happens to him (he’s black), he’s just shrugging it off, not because it doesn’t bother him, but because he knows the deal. This is typical bullshit. His (white) girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), meanwhile, gets all up in arms. Because: racism! It’s news to her! But don’t worry, she says, my parents aren’t racist at all. They’re going to love you.

They don’t love him. Dad (Bradley Whitford) goes out of his way to connect racially. It’s as awkward as you’re thinking. Mom (Catherine Keener) is uneasy, and maybe a little disapproving. Brother is overzealous. The help (the only other black people for miles) ARE FUCKING CREEPY. So yeah, big surprise, Mom and Dad are a little bit racist after all, and Rose is a little bit embarrassed, and Chris is a little bit wary. Read that as: NOT WARY ENOUGH. Even though his excellent friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) straight up warned him not to go out into suburbia. Always listen to Rod.

Chris inevitably overstays his welcome and I’ll stop there because half the fun of watching this movie is finding out how it’s going to go down. I mean, you pretty much know what’s going to happen, but you get the pleasure of seeing the twisted stuff that comes out of writer-director Jordan Peele’s mind. This whole ugly caper is a great showcase for some social commentary, and if you know Peele’s work, you know he excels at racially-based comedy. He just makes wry observations and presents them in a way we can all laugh at. Turns out he can do the same thing with horror (minus the laughing…actually, plus some laughing. Guilty laughing. Nervous laughing).

And a note about the horror: it’s not so bad. The stuff I was grumbling about up there? That happened in the first 10 minutes, and it’s probably technically not part of the horror at all. It was a dead (well, dying) deer, who was quite vocal about her displeasure. It nearly killed me. The rest was tolerable. Yes, there’s tension: loads and loads of tension (imagine meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time AND getting repeatedly attempted-murdered in one single weekend!). But Peele isn’t exactly trying to horrify you; he’s trying to unsettle you. And he’s doing that exceedingly well.

A big part of why this works is the excellent casting. The performances are solidly on-point at all times, sometimes downright impressive, but no one’s trying to overshadow anyone else. It’s oddly well-balanced for a horror film, and whatever little look-the-other-way moments a horror necessitates, Kaluuya is smooth enough to steer right through. The worst part of this movie is knowing that if Chris survives, he will be defying that age-old stereotype: the black guy dies first. But even if he manages to walk away from knife-wielding assassins, there’s no walking away from racism. That shit will follow you home.

Split

Ironically, I think it’s the film itself that suffers from DID (dissociative identity disorder, or “multiple personalities”). M. Night Shyamalan can’t decide if this is a strict horror film or if it’s more thriller, or character-driven. He jumps right into the plot with minimal fuss: three teenaged girls are abducted by a very methodical man who turned out to be only one personality among many. Captive, the girls try to figure out which of the personalities might be induced to help them, and which ones mean them harm.

The film works as well as it does because James McAvoy was the perfect casting choice (although he was 2nd choice, and only took the role when Joaquin Phoenix had some conflicts). In the hands of anyone else, the disorder might have seemed funny or splitshadow.jpgcartoonish, but McAvoy gives each personality a distinctive flavour without ever resorting to stereotypes. And that’s hard work period, never mind the fact that he’s fighting Shyamalan’s confused script, that seems to want to have something meaningful to say about this controversial disorder, but also really just wants to be an exploitative horror film. You can’t have it both ways.

Split is further testament that M. Night Shymalan has lost his way. He doesn’t know who he is as a film maker anymore, and his lack of confidence is evident in the script and on the screen. Having jumped head first into action, he then seems to regret his choice of not split-anya-taylor-joy-betty-buckley-jessica-sula.jpghaving introduced any of his characters. He bestows back stories on two of them through flashbacks, hoping it’s not too late. The rest remain paper thin. The girls (Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula) are mostly there to scream on cue, and to wear progressively less clothing.

Is it a bad movie? No. No-ish. It’s not without merit. I was drawn in, and stressed out. I had all the right reactions. I just didn’t buy it 100%. You might be tempted, particularly by the film’s end, to say that it’s Shyamalan’s best work since Unbreakable. He’s certainly hoping you’ll say that, banking on it in fact. It’s not the highest compliment, of course, but I’m guessing he’ll take it.

Green Room

I think we can all agree that Jeremy Saulnier would make a terrible dinner party guest. He’s the writer-director of the most sadistic movies I’ve ever seen and I think someone needs to give him a houseplant and one of those sappy Hallmark cards with a nice beach scene on the front. Like, the man needs a hug only I wouldn’t recommend anyone get close enough to give him one. A man who makes movies this crazy has to be a little deranged, right?

Okay, I don’t really know a single thing about Saulnier, and judging by his IMDB profile pic, I’d say he’s a Mumford & Sons listening, Wholefoods shopping, Keds wearing dude like any other. Only he’s also a brilliant writer and director who just happens to like fucking with people.

I watched Blue Ruin all by my lonesome and survived. Green Room is even downloadmore of a trial. It’s about a not very successful punk band on a tour of tiny bars and rec rooms about to head home when they get one last gig that pays too well to ignore. They should have ignored it though because the neo-Nazis who show up to hear them play are a little more than they bargained for. Shit goes down, and it’s not just uncomfortable racist undertones, it’s more the literal tearing out of your throat variety.

It’s a horror-thriller that doesn’t apologize for relishing the bloodiness of greenroom4the genre, but this one has the surprising addition of exceptional acting. I liked Blue Ruin for defying my expectations of the genre, and Green Room of guilty of the same, to some extent. It has a real plot and a set-up that won’t make you cringe in its obviousness or its thinness. When Saulnier’s name is attached to a film (this is his third – the perfect opportunity, and maybe his only opportunity to indulge and be indulged in such a gorefest) you’re pretty much guaranteed a nail-biter. There’s breathtaking cruelty around every corner, but I was even more surprised by the tiny flickers of humanity that sneak up on you.

Green Room is not an easy watch, but if you think you have the stomach for it, you should probably put Saulnier on your watch list.

 

Short Films Galore!

Candy Skin: Ottawa’s own Kyle Martellacci has a short film that preys on our fear of the unknown. The protagonist, David, wakes up to find himself alone in a deserted world. Visibly alone at least  – something unseen is hunting him, but finding out may be more than he can handle. Watch the trailer here.

Lookouts: a team of young woodland scouts are training in order to defeat a mythical, Opening_Run_Master_2500_v2.jpgdangerous beast called a basilisk. Pehn depends on the guidance of his mentor and the memories of his mother to give him the courage to confront the monster he can scarcely define, let alone identify. Shot in lush coastal California forest, Lookouts is about as beautiful and accomplished a short film as I have ever seen and the acting is superb. It uses practical effects and real locations to elevate this period fantasy based on Penny Arcade’s Lookouts to something truly unique and special. Director David Bousquet has tapped into real magic, and you can share in it by watching the film here. You’re welcome. 😉

Pigskin: a cheerleader’s romance with a football player leads to a walking-nightmare manifestation of her body dismorphia. This body-horror short is stunningly shot, with beautiful, throwback cinematography that will hearken 80s nostalgia while communicating a present-day message about body consciousness, brought to you by the creative team of director\writer Jake Hammond and cinematographer\writer Nicola Newton.

Night of the Slasher: from director Shant Hamassian, this 11 minute short depicts a young girl determined to commit all the usual “horror movie sins” like drinking and dancing half naked in order to attract a serial killer. Why do such a thing? Well, that scar on her neck and the glint of revenge in her eye might serve as clues. Excellently executed and impressively shot in one take, Hamassian wants us to rethink the slasher genre and hopes to turn this short into a full-length, high-profile cinematic piece. You can watch it here, and see for yourself:

The Eyes of My Mother

The horror is not what you’ll see on screen – it’s what you’ll see when you close your eyes in bed that night, if you’re able to close them at all.

I went into this film at the New Hampshire Film Festival having been warned by Anna at Film Grimoire – not warned against it, mind you, but warned that it screen-shot-2016-06-26-at-9-47-49-pmwas…unusual, intense, disturbing. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see it. You may know by now that Jay and horror don’t mix. But Sean was keen despite my own warnings, so we hunkered down in the same beautiful theatre where I barely survived watching The Witch last year and hoped for the best (ie, dry pants when all was said and done).

Anna felt that the less you knew about this film going in, the better, and I agree. But I do feel compelled to tell you that it is not a traditional horror film, by which I mean: I was completely fine, didn’t cover my face even once, but Sean, shaken and pale when we left the theatre, confessed to 0% when I asked how much he’d enjoyed the film. “Enjoy” is the wrong word.

It’s about a young girl living on a farm with her immigrant parents. She witnesses the brutal murder of her mother (at the hands of a super creepy serial killer played brilliantly by Will Brill) and in some ways the even more brutal response to the murder by her father. Basically, she’s warped. As a little girl with certain proclivities, this trauma pushes her over the deep end and she deals with it in ways that most of us only encounter in nightmares.

Shot in stark black and white, the cinematography can be disturbingly eyesmo2beautiful for such a twisted movie. The monochrome may lessen the impact of the gore but it only serves to heighten the intensity of the atmosphere, creating a world I was never sure of, never trusted. So while there’s little in the way of jump-scare, there’s plenty of hair-raising all the same.

Do I recommend it? It’s interesting. It’s unique. It’s creepy as fuck. I found it bearable, but the suspense is unrelenting. I had to buy Sean a Fred Flintstone nightlight, so I guess your “enjoyment” of this film will depend a lot on your tolerance for depravity.

TIFF: Brimstone

Something has to bear the banner of “bloodiest thing I saw at TIFF” and I’d wager that Brimstone bears it proudly, has indeed gone to great lengths to earn it.

mv5bndqzm2zhnzctztexns00mdk0ltgwodatzmi3zdbjmme4yzczxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymju2otaymzq__v1_uy1200_cr8506301200_al_Dakota Fanning plays a mute woman newly married, raising a dead woman’s son and  a daughter of her own. She is unable to speak but the look of dread on her face when she hears the new preacher’s voice tells us all we need to know. That preacher (Guy Pearce) has been stalking her for years, and bathing villages in blood as he attempts to make her his.

Their story unravels backwards – chapter one sets the above scene; chapter two rewinds to her childhood in a religious-pioneer settlement when her mother was the object of his cruel “affections”; chapter three follows her to a saloon where she does what she must in order to escape; chapter four has him caught up to her, and to her kids, as she flees through snowy, barren land.

Guy Pearce is diabolical – the extent to his character’s actual super-naturalness is unclear, or up for debate, but he’s a twisted zealot AT BEST and I’ll let you decide if there’s more to it. Dakota Fanning as Liz is necessarily quiet but full of strength and grit. He comes at her hard with vengeance but she’s a surprisingly formidable opponent.

This is Martin Koolhoven’s first English-language movie and he’s determined to show us what he’s made of. And for the record: blood and guts. He’s made of blood and guts. So am I, I brimstonepearce2suppose, but I’ve never worn my intestines as a scarf. Have you?

The images are powerful, and will burrow under your skin. And there are 148 bloody minutes of them. It’s not all gore though, there’s plenty of foreboding, plenty of tension. The setting does a lot to add to it: isolation is nobody’s friend. The land is unforgiving.

The MPAA warns of brutal bloody violence, strong sexual content including disturbing behavior, graphic nudity, and language. That doesn’t really tell a story though, does it? And it certainly doesn’t account for how thoroughly you’ll scour yourself in the shower after watching it. There’s no label for that. Except maybe “A film by Martin Koolhoven.”