Tag Archives: horror movies

Evil Eye

Pallavi’s mother is a little overbearing. Or a lot overbearing, depending on your perspective. As far as Indian parents go, Pallavi’s aren’t so bad, maybe. They love her a lot. Mom Usha (Sarita Choudhury) calls every day, with good intentions and motherly concern. Pallavi (Sunita Mani) is nearly 29 and still single, a matter of daily discussion. There’s an ocean between them but no shortage of meddling, even if, as Usha points out, there aren’t a lot of Indian men in New Orleans. Pallavi is unconcerned with her marital status but she’s a smart woman and quickly judges that it’s easier to agree to yet another of her mother’s fix-ups than to argue uselessly. Fortunately or unfortunately, Pallavi’s date stands her up, but she ends up meeting someone else that day, and Sandeep (Omar Maskati) is everything both Pallavi and her mother have been looking for in a man.

I know what you’re thinking: Pallavi’s going to fuck things up. But not if Usha beats her to it! Yes, it IS ironic that the very mother who has preached marriage and family above all, stability over romantic love, partnership rather than independence, that same Usha who made her daughter feel like as long as she’s single, she’s a disappointment, that very Usha – well, now she’s trying to hit the brakes all the way from India. Usha’s astrologer assures her it’s a very auspicious match, and her husband Krishnan (Bernard White) does his best to soothe her, but Usha cannot be dissuaded. Her reasoning, unfortunately, is unconvincing: she’s pretty sure that Sandeep is the reincarnation of her abusive boyfriend come back to finish the job. Whether or not Usha’s tendency toward superstition is playing a part, or her PTSD is being triggered, Usha’s panic is as real as her desperation.

This is not your typical “horror” movie even if it is a Welcome To The Blumhouse member. It’s a mother-daughter drama with some seriously sinister supernatural overtones to it. Also, the fact that it’s set in both America and India gives it a unique structure. As much as Usha fears for her daughter, you bet Pallavi is also afraid her mother’s mental health is crumbling, and the distance only makes them both all the more distraught.

Choudhury and Mani both give compelling performances but directors Elan and Rajeev Dassani are less confident, and less inspired. Evil Eye doesn’t quite reach its true potential, but its strong sense of identity goes a long way in making this worthwhile.

Nocturne

Juliet and Vivian are twin sisters studying at an elite academy of the arts. They both study piano, they both hope to be classical musicians, and they both want to go to Julliard. It is widely thought that Vivian (Madison Iseman) is the more talented twin, and Juliet (Sydney Sweeney) the less successful. It is tough having such fierce competition and such a direct comparison; Vivian isn’t just the better musician, but the better student, the better daughter, the better friend, the better girlfriend. Oh, and she just got in to Julliard. Juliet did not.

It would seem Juliet it is in for a lifetime of second place, but a suicide at her school opens her up to the possibility of a Faustian bargain – is she desperate enough to sell out her own sister, or, just maybe, is getting to sell out her sister the whole point? Nocturne unravels sibling rivalry on a whole new level, and in a way that keeps you guessing as to how much this “deal with the devil” is a literal event, and how much is perhaps just the very idea of it empowering Juliet to come out of her sister’s shadown and challenge her for supremacy. Oh boy.

Director Zu Quirke sidesteps easy chills and obvious gore in favour of something that is more subtle, and far more unsettling. With teenage protagonists you expect something flashy and slashy, blow out parties and surrendered virginities, but this horror is of a more creeping variety, eerie and unknown.

The cast is uniformly solid, but Iseman and Sweeney deliver spell-binding performances that make the tragic relationship between sisters so difficult to crack but so interesting to watch and interpret. Your sympathies may switch teams several times before the last act, which is predictable, yes, but dizzying and vital. The horror bits are actually Quirke’s most conventional beats; her strength is in story-telling. The academic setting is both cutthroat and ripe for predation and exploitation. The interesting is figuring out who, or what, is behind it all.

Nocturne is one of four “Welcome to the Blumhouse” horror offered in a bundle on Amazon Prime. Stay tuned for more reviews, and be sure to let us know if you’ve taken the plunge.

Killer Unicorn

Danny (Alejandro La Rosa) is a bartender and used to be a bit of a party boy. His friends are queer, his best friends are drag queens, and they always stop by to invite him out. For the last year or so, Danny has passed. He’s had some trauma and no longer feels safe going out. However, the community’s epic Brooklyn Annual Enema Party (it’s exactly how it sounds) is just around the corner, and everyone’s trying to pump Danny up for the big day. A new love interest named PuppyPup (José D. Álvarez) makes him want to give the nightlife a second chance. Unfortunately, it becomes an even harder sell when it seems a serial killer is stalking the Brooklyn queer community and making drag queens disappear.

The Killer Unicorn gets his nickname in the least original way ever – he wears a unicorn mask. And not much else besides a pair of sequined booty shorts. The queens must like what’s in those shorts an awful lot because even though there’s a known Killer Unicorn on the loose and murdering their friends, a good many of them still agree to meet in dark, isolated places for a hookup – even when texts contain both unicorn and knife emojis. That’s practically a confession!

Writer José D. Álvarez can’t write. He can’t write dialogue, and none of director Drew Bolton’s cast can deliver it, so at least there’s some equanimity. It makes for a pretty garbage movie, and that’s even before you consider the vicious slander foisted upon the unicorn community. Who would want to desecrate these magical, beauteous creatures? They burp glitter and toot rainbows and yet some cretin has besmirched the good unicorn name. How dare you cast aspersions? HOW DARE YOU?

Apparently the script was written with specific queens in mind; it’s a shame Álvarez has such talentless friends. I don’t want to talk out of turn, but it would seem that RuPaul has turned the NYC drag family upside down and given it a good shake – even Drag Race’s losers go on to have stellar careers, but the leftovers in Brooklyn are clearly the dregs. Still, I don’t wish death upon them, and certainly not the particularly gruesome deaths this sick fuck in a unicorn mask inflicts. But aside from a few inventive kill scenes, there’s not much to recommend this film and plenty to warn you away.

But there a couple of you, just a couple, who are curious enough about the booty shorts and maybe even the enemas, who are going to watch it anyway. I see you. And what the heck, go ahead, enjoy it, you weirdo.

The Binding (Il legame)

Emma (Mia Maestro) and young daughter Sofia (Giulia Patrignani) are visiting her fiancé’s mother in southern Italy, which sounds like a dream scenario, sun kissed summers with wine and pasta, but it turns out this particular corner of southern Italy is less romantic getaway and more death by curse.

Turns out, Emma’s fiancé Francesco (Riccardo Scarmarcio) hasn’t always been a stand up guy. In his youth he got a girl pregnant and instead of a) doing the right thing or b) breaking up with the woman and sending a monthly cheque or c) becoming a deadbeat dad, he opts for d) use some black magic on her to get rid of the problem.

Obviously her evil spirit has been lingering, waiting for the perfect moment, and its malevolent intentions have targeted young Sofia as its victim. It starts with a tarantula bite and gets oh so much worse. To make matters even worse, it’s unclear to Emma, who isn’t fluent in poultices and incantations, whether her in-laws can be trusted or whether the old women and their evil eye are actually the source of the curse.

Is that the actual plot? Probably not. I was only paying half attention because the movie was so dull and boring. It’s supposed to be a horror movie, but the specifics of the situation are so vague and the relationships between characters so unclear that it’s hard to invest in the story or the consequences. I don’t think Sean was faring much better because his only quibble was with the freshness of the tarantula blood. So….

Maybe something was lost in translation. That seems possible. Maybe. I’m not convinced. In fact, I’m still a little resentful that this movie tried to scare me but didn’t try to entertain me. That’s a terrible equation and I’m not impressed to be involved. If you’re willing to be a variable, you can insert yourself on Netflix. Just don’t blame me if The Binding adds up to a pretty generic horror movie.

The Craft

Confession: I had never seen this movie before tonight. Sean thinks this is shocking, like I had somehow missed out on some pivotal 90s moment and I’m not a fully formed human adult because of it. I think it’s more shocking that he DID see it, considering that in 1996, he was not a teenage girl.

The Craft in question is witchcraft. Like many young girls before them, social outcasts Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Bonnie (Neve Campbell), and Rochelle (Rachel True) are tempted by the dark arts. It’s a phase that attracts many teenage girls; witchcraft offers a sense of control over your own life that a lot of girls are seeking, a feeling of empowerment and self-actualization that is often denied them. Nancy is oppressed by a cruel step father, Bonnie is covered in scars, and Rochelle is bullied by a swim team-mate. They all wish things could be different, but nothing changes until their coven finds the all-important fourth, new girl Sarah (Robin Tunney), who completes their circle and actually summons some power.

Being teenage girls, they exact revenge on those who have wronged them, but that first taste of power goes to their pointy-hatted heads and things get out of hand.

I always imagined that this was a scary movie and it’s really not, which I should have guessed because my imagination is nearly always much worse than reality (last week I had a dream that I was being chased by a serial killer and it wasn’t a nightmare – what is wrong with me???). But I don’t regret missing out because I really wasn’t. Turns out, this is kind of a crappy movie. I did not need it in my life and chances are you don’t need it in yours. If you’ve seen it – heck, even if you loved it – that’s cool, I get it. Sometimes a movie is just exactly what we needed at that time. It’s not likely to win over any new fans, but that’s okay because *dramatic drumming of the cauldron, please*: there’s a sequel!

Yes, it’s 24 years later, but that’s what we do now. We drop in on movie characters a generation later just to see what’s shaking. We recently got reacquainted with Bill and Ted 29 years after their Bogus Journey. Heck, we recently revisited Mary Poppins 54 years after we first made her acquaintance. Except this time we’re not catching up with old friends so much as making new ones. The Craft: Legacy takes place 20 years after the first one, with all new teenage girls forming a coven, one or some of whom are tangentially related (via photograph anyway) to Nancy (Balk) of the first film. It’s a loose sequel, let’s say, but you don’t have long to wait: you can stream it October 28th.

For more discussion, and more release dates for movies this month, check us out on Youtube and consider subscribing – it’s free!

Crawl (mistakes were made)

Crawl is a horror movie available on Amazon Prime in which a young woman named Haley (Kaya Scodelario) attempts to save her father during a hurricane but ends up trapped with him in a flooding house filled not just with water, but also alligators.

I’m not normally one to blame the victim, but people in horror movies routinely make terrible decisions while we yell pointlessly but with increasingly frustrated indignation at the screen. Let’s discuss (spoilers ahead):

  1. She lives in Florida, a state notorious for both its devastating hurricanes and its aggressive alligators. It’s also got terrible traffic, too many tourists, abhorrent gun laws, irresponsible gun owners, impossibly fat roaches, a sinkhole epidemic, and, oh yeah, Floridians.
  2. She flouts all good cell phone etiquette by accepting a video call from her sister in a change room where not only are innocent bystanders unknowingly getting naked on camera, but Haley is knowingly doing so as well. Said sister guilts her into checking in on their father.
  3. She should have cut her deadbeat dad out of her life years ago.
  4. She drives toward a category 5 hurricane.
  5. A nice guy at a checkpoint tells her to turn around, but not only does she break the rules and not comply, she pretends to listen and asks him to risk his life checking on her dad (Barry Pepper) too.
  6. She goes into the crawlspace underneath her childhood home (nothing good has ever happened or ever will in a crawlspace).
  7. She goes into a stinky, rat-infested crawlspace that EVEN HER DOG WILL NOT GO INTO.
  8. She finds her father bleeding and unconscious and instead of thinking ‘this is a job for qualified paramedics’, she grabs a disgusting tarp and decides to drag his mangled body through a space so overwhelmingly dirty it already consumed her flip flops.
  9. When she learns the hard way that a very large and apparently very hungry alligator has made the crawlspace her new home, she does not alter her plan one bit.
  10. She fails to use her father’s body as bait or as a distraction. The man is dead weight but likely at least a 30 minute meal for even an above-average gator. Sprinkle him with salt and RUN!
  11. She assumes there is only the one alligator.
  12. She is holding a working cell phone, punches in the 911, but doesn’t immediately press send because there’s no real urgency, plenty of time to look around first. Right?
  13. She thinks she has an advantage over alligators because she can swim.
  14. Instead of warning away innocent passerby, she selfishly beckons them toward the danger and then fails to take advantage as they inevitably become gator happy meals. But she does pat down what’s left of their corpses for useful items.
  15. She thinks this is a good time to talk about their father-daughter issues.
  16. She constantly reaches for her father’s gator-mangled arm with her own gator-mangled arm. USE YOUR OTHER ARM, HALEY.
  17. She practically sends the alligators an invitation to dinner the way she flaunts her skinny white limbs, splashing about in the water like she’s an appetizing snack. By the back half of the movie, even I was salivating!
  18. When she was in the shower stall with the alligator trying to ram its way in, she was terrified. Now that the gator’s in the shower and she’s outside, she thinks she’s safe.
  19. She attempts to save her dog, which is basically amending the dinner invitation to say “Look, now we’re a three course meal!”
  20. She’s very injudicious with a crowbar. That last inch of air pocket where your father’s lips are gasping for their last few breaths is probably not the best place to ram your metal rod. Unless your anger has finally overcome you, in which case just leave him to drown, no need to disfigure him too.
  21. She fails to realize that the dad-sized hole she just opened up is also a gator-sized hole.

I’m being mean because I can’t help it. Also because creature features make it so easy. But even I must admit that as far as horror movies go, this one’s pretty decent. It’s a strange way to strengthen a father-daughter bond, but sure. It could happen. Is it a bit ridiculous? Of course. But no more ridiculous than clowns in a sewer or little girls in VHS tapes or snakes on a plane. Director Alexandre Aja manages to balance the claustrophobia of rising water with the random terror of gnashing teeth. The CGI is excellent. Scodelario and Pepper are 100% game. Crawl gleefully brings the senseless violence and turns an entire hurricane’s worth of water red tearing its victims apart limb by limb.

Vampires Vs. The Bronx

Best friends Miguel (Jaden Michael), Bobby (Gerald Jones III), and Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) are cresting their last wave of childhood growing up in the Bronx. They roam the neighbourhood independently but aren’t yet exempt from the dreaded mother yelling something embarrassing out the window for everyone to hear. Miguel is very plugged in to his neighbourhood; everyone calls him the Little Mayor, and it’s even what his (hand-drawn) business cards say.

Miguel’s current project is saving the neighbourhood bodega – lots of local businesses have been closing up shop, and a mysterious real estate company is swiftly encroaching. White people with canvas bags are merely the first step; gentrification is next. Except these white people are paler than most, and the renovations they have in mind are even more sinister than Lululemons and Starbucks and Blow Out Bars. Having recently watched Blade without parental supervision, Miguel, Luis, and Bobby are convinced the new neighbours are vampires, but who would believe such a thing? The only ally they manage to make is a neighbourhood teenager called Rita (Coco Jones), who has the distinction of not only being the only one to believe them, but also being a bit older, a bit cooler, and a heck of a lot prettier than our original trio.

Not even Rita’s credibility is enough to convince Moms not to open their doors to new neighbours or bodega owners to close shop. How then will they save the Bronx?

Longtime segment director at SNL Osmany “Oz” Rodriguez directs and co-writes the script with Blaise Hemingway, and together they’ve come up with something rather strange and wonderful. The kid cast is charming and exceptional (special mention to Imani Lewis whose character never stops her brilliant live stream), and the adult cast is fun and unexpected.

The allegory may be told through a very, VERY thin veil, but it’s as clever as it is unmissable, putting a new twist on a very old story. It’s rated PG-13 but the violence is far less graphic than what you’ll find in Blade, the movie the kids proficiently use as a vampire bible (and their rules hold up). As a comedy-horror, it’s a little light on both, but it’s an easy and enjoyable watch for everyone, including families with older kids and tweens, who will likely tolerate it with enthusiasm.

TIFF20: Shadow In The Cloud

When Maude Garrett (Chloe Grace Moretz) boards a B-17 Flying Fortress with top secret documents, the rest of the crew is surprised, and suspicious. Captain Reeves (Callan Mulvey) doesn’t know of any female pilots (it’s WW2, though I’m not sure they’re calling it that yet), and the other guys – Beckell (Nick Robinson), Williams (Beulah Koale), Tommy (Benedict Wall), Finch (Joe Witkowski), Taggart (Byron Coll) – are more interested in cat-calling her and making lewd remarks. None of them had anticipated an extra passenger and they’re suspicious of her documents, but she threatens court-marshals all around and they’re pretty anxious to get their wheels up, so off they go.

The movie takes almost entirely place inside of that plane. Maude is relegated to a tiny gun turret on the bottom of the plane that’s barely still attached, separated from her precious top-secret cargo. Of all the crew, only Quaid (Taylor John Smith) ever comes to her defense, but even he goes pretty silent when she starts babbling about some sort of…creature on the wing. They’re getting more resentful and increasingly skeptical, but they have bigger things to worry about, like bad weather, enemy planes, and their own flying fortress falling apart. And that’s before they discover what’s inside Maude’s top secret briefcase.

Roseanne Liang’s film is the Russian nesting doll of cinema: a monster movie within a horror movie within an action movie within a war movie, a daring and absurd mashup that works more than it doesn’t, surprisingly. It boldly confronts sexism and the super natural all in one go. It is, frankly speaking, sometimes altogether ridiculous. Unapologetically so, I believe. The film goes for broke while Moretz acts her ass off in a jumpsuit that doesn’t even showcase it. Director Liang isn’t afraid to crash and burn the whole thing if that’s what it takes. And as this film’s audience, you should be prepared to suspend your disbelief far above the Flying Fortress’ cruising altitude of 25 000 feet. It’s crazy. It’s completely bonkers. It is thrilling and terrifying and often flat-out bananas. You have to be willing to have fun with it, and willing to go along with a movie that refuses to stay within the bounds of any genre’s strict definition. If you’re in the mood for a quirky horror set piece, allow this one to surprise and delight and terrify you.

TIFF20: Get The Hell Out

Technically, this film does have a premise and a plot. I mean, it totally and legitimately does. But as a Taiwanese comedy-horror that mixes zombies, martial arts, and politics, it probably didn’t have to go to the trouble. As part of TIFF’s legendary Midnight Madness program, it’s not just a case of fitting in, but establishing a new bar for the kind of oddities the best of genre cinema can offer.

Hsiung Ying-ying (Megan Lai) is so mad the government wants to tear down her father’s house to build a new chemical plant, she gets herself elected to parliament to actually do something about it. But opponent MP Li Kuo-chung (Chung-wang Wang) is a veteran politician and isn’t about to just back down and let her have it. In fact, he instigates a brawl that riles Ying-ying into busting out some badass kung-fu moves, including her signature huracanrana, and then calls for her resignation, having successfully baited her. Bumbling security guard Wang You-wei (Bruce Hung) is the one who broke up the fight, and his corresponding rise in popularity has both camps thinking they can use his seat for their own purposes. But You-wei only has eyes for Ying-ying, so on the appointed day and time of the power plant vote, he shows up to Taiwan’s parliamentary chambers ready for a fight, but not the kind that actually goes down.

Turns out, the Prime Minister himself has contracted a virus and the minute he starts rabidly biting into people’s flesh, hell breaks loose and the building goes on lockdown. A measure normally used to protect the Prime Minister from outside threats, this time it’s trapped his colleagues in chambers with him, and he’s turning fellow politicians into crazed zombies faster than Donald Trump can spout lies to the press. In fact, he’s going through victims quicker than if he was a wood chipper, while his bored security detail looks on, seemingly unperturbed – they’re there to protect him, not protect others from him. Don’t question it, it’s the kind of magical “logic” politicians rely on every day.

As Ying-ying watches from the safety of the press pit, her rival, her protege/love interest, and her father (Tsung-Hua To) all fight for their lives. The blood spatter is voluminous, exuberant. Luckily Taiwanese politicians are exceptionally well-dressed, battle lines drawn vividly between fuchsia and tangerine. Director I.-Fan Wang’s larger than life, cartoonish violence reminds me a little of Edgar Wright circa Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. It’s a monstrous spectacle, but you can’t deny its vigor. I dare you to pass up the opportunity to see someone wield the person they’re giving the Heimlich to as a weapon. Where else on earth are you going to see that?

The comedy is broad, the violence gleeful and gruesome, and the satire unsubtle. Even as they wield axes and nail clippers, anything that might help them get the hell out, they continue to wheel and deal, consummate politicians, the vote never quite forgotten. If their political criticism is to be believed, cowriters Wang and Wan-Ju Yang don’t have a lot of respect for Taiwan’s actual legislative fights. They do, however have a lot of fun lampooning them. It may not be pretty, but Get The Hell Out is loud and exhilarating, and in a guilty pleasure kind of way, it’s actually pretty fun.

The Babysitter: Killer Queen

Cole is a junior in high school who meets with his school nurse Big Carl to discuss his delusions. I mean, Cole (Judah Lewis) is adamant they’re not delusions: two years ago, a blood cult really DID try to kill him and if there’s no evidence to support that, well, it hardly means he’s crazy, right? Big Carl (Carl McDowell) disagrees. So does the student body, who know about his outlandish claims, and they’re not shy to label him. Even his parents (Leslie Bibb, Ken Marino) are about to kidnap him away to some school-hospital hybrid for psychotic teenagers. But Cole catches wind of this and so he absconds with his only friend Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) and they hit up “the lake” for “some fun.” Melanie has a boyfriend (who’s coming), but she’s a girl and she’s been polite to him, so of course Cole thinks he might get to fuck her. But he’s wrong. Dead wrong.

As Cole should have guessed, the lake is code for murder town. I mean seriously, if you narrowly survive a blood cult, the LEAST you could do is start boning up on horror movies and, you know, get a clue. Lucky for him, the mysterious new girl who he only just met that morning, Phoebe (Jenna Ortega), is also at the lake to “have some alone time” despite the crowded beach party. A very inconsiderate second round of blood cult is about to go down, so they’ll get plenty of alone time to put his freshly purchased Magnum XL’s to good use while literally also running for their lives. Trust me, I know that math does not add up, but that’s called “movie magic” and the first rule of movie magic is you never fucking question it.

This horror film newly available on Netflix is a sequel to 2017’s apparent hit, The Babysitter, as astute readers will have guessed from my casual use of “two years ago” up in the first paragraph, which you can now appreciate for having been deeply meaningful. I never saw the first one and you won’t have to either because the sequel makes heavy use of flashbacks, but honestly, it’s also just pretty darn shallow. Blood, knife, run. You know the drill. It’s a classic teen slasher flick and by god there will be slashing. This movie is not big on actual horror, it’s not scary, it’s not even tense, but it is gory and rather graphic. It takes perverse pleasure in ripping bodies apart at the seams and showing every stringy inch of it.

I should mention here that the movie is directed by McG. Not that anyone else is fool enough to start calling himself McG, but yes, that McG, the McG who directed all those crazy annoying earworm 90s music videos you’re still having PTSD about: Smashmouth’s All Star AND Walking on the Sun, Offspring’s Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) and Why Don’t You Get A Job, Fastball’s The Way, Sugar Ray’s Fly, Barenaked Ladies’ One Week, and yes I could go on but I won’t because ew. But maybe just remember this is how he got his start, so that if, just for random example, this horror movie has a quick music video sidebar in the middle of it, you won’t be too surprised. He also directed Terminator Salvation, but don’t worry, you needn’t remember that because this movie references it HEAVILY.

We recently reviewed Get Duked!, an actually funny horror-comedy. This one isn’t a horror-comedy but it IS unintentionally funny. It doesn’t take itself seriously though, it embraces the absurd with open arms, it’s an odd kind of film and it knows it. For that reason alone, perhaps, I couldn’t hate it. I didn’t think it was good, but it was definitely having fun and I guess it rubbed off. Plus, if you liked the first, you’ll likely be pleased with the second. Are you in it for Robbie Amell’s random absence of a shirt? Done. Want to see if Bella Thorne finds a way to top her self-compliments? Go for it. This movie takes a lot of weird turns, plays a lot of unexpected tunes, and really keeps you guessing. Not in terms of plot or anything, you know how it’s going to end, you’ll just be pretty surprised at some of the pit stops they take in getting there.

If this sounds remotely interesting, it’s on Netflix so the risk is low. So’s the first one if you’re curious, but believe me, you can easily treat these as stand alone movies. Just don’t get attached to anyone. Or their heads.