Tag Archives: horror

Monster Pool: Seven Deadly Sins

Was it really two years ago that Jay and I furiously drove back from New Hampshire to Ottawa to see the first Monster Pool Horror Anthology?  Apparently so.  As this site evidences, we have seen a truckload of movies since then, but very few of those have been as gory as the latest Monster Pool entry, titled Seven Deadly Sins (and even fewer have been as Ottawa-centric, considering this effort comes from a team of local filmmakers).

Monster Pool: Seven Deadly Sins wastes no time in getting to the gore.  Like, insides falling out kind of gore, and skinless body in a bathtub kind of gore, and cannibal eating dinner kind of gore.  And while these effects don’t have the gloss on them that a $200 million budget can provide, the fact they are still convincingly disgusting is a great credit to these talented filmmakers.  This is a well-polished effort that fits together well, and builds on the previous two Monster Pool entries (all three of which are available online through http://monsterpool.ca/ – and the first two films can be viewed for free!).

All these filmmakers put their talent on display and the result is a polished and cohesive product.  The quality of the effects was a highlight for me, as they were consistently good throughout each of the seven short films plus the “wrapper” story that linked them loosely together.  The acting was less consistent than the effects, though I’m not even sure that is necessarily a criticism (overacting is arguably a staple of the horror genre).

All in all, Monster Pool: Seven Deadly Sins ended up being an excellent and, um, festive way to spend my Halloween after handing out candy to 191 kids (Jay had to work so I manned the door by myself!).  My only regret is not saving more candy for myself.

 

 

 

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Mother!

tmp_oLHXPW_d785c743c5338b61_MomSome stories do not need to be told. Mother! falls squarely within that category. I walked out of the theatre at the end of the movie asking, what was the point? Why did I suffer through two hours of claustrophobic misery to get back where I started?  And actually,  further behind than where I started because at least then I was curious about Darren Aronofsky’s latest project. Afterward, I was just tired and dreading this review.

Mother! is not an awful film, I don’t think. It has a stellar cast and is visually captivating (though it’s too harsh and dour to ever be beautiful). Maybe some will even appreciate the crazy downward spiral that is this film, as it goes to soul-devouring depths that most wouldn’t dare to approach. Me? Not one bit. Not even a little. It made me uncomfortable right from the start, and not in a challenging way, and not in a way that offered me anything.

This film is the same as Javier Bardem’s nameless poet: selfish, desiring my affection, and oblivious to anything else. It is art that takes from the audience rather than giving, which also echoes the plot of the movie itself. Is that intentional? If so, that would make Aronofsky our version of the poet, and I would suggest that you not give him your energy in service of his creation. I already gave enough for both of us.

 

 

 

The Honor Farm

Honor farm

I hadn’t seen my friend Josh in months and was eager to tell him all about the exciting new movie I saw at the Fantasia Film Festival. “I just saw The Honor Farm and I’m still trying to figure it out,” I told him while seated at a nearby Mexican restaurant.

I hadn’t seen the baby boomer somehow standing right over me until he chose this moment to cut me off. “I just saw that,” he complained. “It was terrible“.

I didn’t really want to get into it with this guy nor was I even confident that I had understood the film well enough to defend it so I just smiled politely as he told me that it wasn’t even scary. I bashfully admitted that I was the guy who jumped and cried out during the final act.

honor farm 2

The Honor Farm is exactly that kind of movie. It’s the kind of movie that you need to let sink in while you ignore those who will immediately and loudly dismiss it. Lucy (Olivia Grace Applegate) seems to feels like she’s just going through the motions as she prepares for her prom. After her drunk date embarasses her and tries to force himself on her, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her best friend Anne (Katie Folger) and a classmate she barely knows into the woods to take shrooms in an abandoned prison farm.

Other than that, the less you know about The Honor Farm the better. Although you should probably be warned that horror fans like the one described above may be disappointed. Because the set up seems bloody perfect. Eight teenagers, most of them seeming to fit a typical scary movie stereotype, entering a creepy prison on prom night might make you start placing bets on who will be first to die but this isn’t your typical scary movie. What follows is truly surreal and genre-bending and few of these character arcs play out like you’d expect.

I may have been a little lost during the closing credits but The Honor Farm keeps getting better the more i think about it. And I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Alien: Covenant

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You always know better than the idiots in horror movies. Don’t go to an uncharted planet streaming John Denver songs to the universe. Hell, don’t go into space period! When you get to the planet, don’t trust its lone inhabitant who lives in a graveyard and conducts science experiments in a drippy cave. Especially when the results of those science experiments look suspiciously like the creepy little things that just blew up your only ride off the planet. But if not for those dumb decisions, there wouldn’t be much of a movie here, and certainly not one about Aliens with a capital A.

As the SXSW Sneak Peek hinted, the idiots in Alien: Covenant are more tolerable than most, because every bad decision leads us to a place we want to go. Ridley Scott’s playful approach here elevates Alien: Covenant above every entry in this franchise since Aliens. The bad decisions aren’t infuriating, they’re chess moves, most of which lead to another piece getting ripped apart into gooey chunks by space monsters.

Everything in this movie services the Aliens, including the speedy pace at which they burst out of people (taking only as long as needed to cause maximum carnage). Alien: Covenant felt like a Star Wars prequel in that respect, as the technology (in this case, the creatures produced by those previously mentioned science experiments) behind the Aliens seems better in the “past” than in the “future”. I suppose that’s inevitable when prequels are made 30 years later, and I was a lot more forgiving of it here that I was with Star Wars. I think that’s because in Alien: Covenant, the changes from the original rules make the movie more entertaining, while the changes in Star Wars made the movies into a CGI tutorial mixed with a boring political drama.

Above all else, Alien: Covenant is fun, and that’s because Ridley Scott and his cast (led by stellar performances by Michael Fassbender (x2) and Katherine Waterston channeling Ripley and kicking Alien ass just like Sigourney Weaver did) deliver everything this franchise’s fans could possibly have asked for. No unnecessary exposition, no extraneous plot points, just Aliens mowing down idiot after idiot.

For that, Alien: Covenant gets a score of eight chest-bursting xenomorphs out of ten.

Short film: Killer Friends

Killer Friends is a 10 minute horror-comedy short in which 4 friends go camping, and only 3 of them will survive.

Scott is that insufferable friend that the other 3 can no longer abide. Is it a little harsh to murder him instead of, say, ask him to move out? Yes it is. But just go with it.

The writing is good and packs more laughs into 10 minutes than some Hollywood releases do in their entire feature-length runtime. It’s well-cast too, each character rather believable in their unbelievable scenario. First time director Zach Noe Towers plays the irreverent Scott, and he wrote the thing too. His co-director Tina Carbone keeps the cast, including Jenna-Lee Carreiro, Peggy Sinnot, and Dave Racki, on-point, every moment used wisely.

In a rare coup for any short, this one’s getting a week-long theatrical release. If you happen to be in L.A., it’s playing at the Laemmle Theatres in North Hollywood, from September 2nd to the 8th. Check out the trailer below.

 

Killer Friends: a bloodthirsty, campy camping short by Zach Noe Towers.

Red Christmas

A beaming mother is proud to have her family gathered round to celebrate one last holiday in the family home – until the drama erupts, which, like most families, is within the first 10 minutes. Not everyone’s happy that the house is for sale and Mom Diane is moving on. But then the doorbell rings and the real trouble begins.

Dee_Wallace_DrewDee Wallace plays the doting mother, who you may remember her from such Mom roles as E.T., Cujo, and Critters. Now she butters her bread with horror movies and though in pearls and a floral flounce skirt she looks like she’d be equally comfortable as a Stepford wife in a Diane Keaton romcom, her pipes have got Scream Queen oozing from them. But that’s not all that’ll ooze before the credits roll.

This Aussie horror flick made its international debut at the Fantasia Film Festival where the crowd riotously applauded Wallace for her performance and director Craig Anderson for his demented vision. The festival offers plenty of midnight delights, but none quite so satisfyingly delicious as this.

Diane isn’t quite the suburban Mom her sweater set would have you believe. She’s been hiding a 2-decades-past abortion which took place the same day as the clinic was bombed by a religious zealot. Turns out that Christian nut was also nutty enough to make off with her deformed fetus, snatched from a bucket, and nursed it back to semi-life, infecting him with the same venomous hate and bloody lust for vengeance. Twenty years later, that abortion shows up on Diane’s front porch with a letter for his mommy and a thirst for gory murder.

It sounds a little more evolved than most horror flicks, but the message comes out a little red-christmas-2016-australian-horror-movie-postermuddled. It’s mostly lighter fare with some heavy-handed slasher tendencies. While most serial killers have a preferred modus operandi, Cletus-the-fetus dazzles us with a whole host of murder weapons, each more impressive than the last. Arteries will spurt like they’re sprinklers on a hot summer’s day; body cavities will gush hot viscous blood in ways you’ve never considered and won’t forget. Anderson takes special care to use the Christmas theme to light his set in borderline festive-ghoulish fashion, keeping the senses on high alert.

Special shout-out to actor Gerard O’Dwyer who brings an air of authenticity to the proceedings. He’s an actor with Down Syndrome whose character forces us to think hard thoughts about ethics and eugenics and the whole lot. He’s also a fully fleshed-out character, fiercely protective of his family and prone to quote Shakespeare.

As a bad guy, Cletus-the-fetus was a little too over-the-top for me. He’s heavily bandaged, raspy-voiced, and wears a Grim-reaper cloak. He’s also either bullet proof or the victim of some bad editing. But somehow these things don’t really take away from the fun we’re having seeing a nice little family get hacked to bits, or the fun Anderson’s having satirizing the genre. As a Canadian, I am familiar with white Christmases; Australians tend more toward green ones. This one, splashed in a red that even Crayola would have to concede as blood, is one for the record books.

 

Psycho Raman

I can probably count on one hand the number of Indian films I’ve seen. And I KNOW I canraman 2 count on one finger the number of Indian films I’ve seen that were about serial killers. Which brings me to the appropriately titled Psycho Raman.

To expose yourself to foreign cinema can be a bit of a culture shock at first. I remember when I first started watching European movies I was thrown off at first by the storytelling, pacing, and acting that felt strikingly different from what I’d become accustomed to watching American movies. So with Psycho Raman, I braced myself for a style of filmmaking that would be completely new to me.

I was quite looking forward to seeing what this new (to me) voice could bring to the tired serial killer genre, and- bad news first-, was a little disappointed how much director Anurag Kastyap’s film reminded me of so many American crime films that I’ve seen. The magnetic Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Ramanna, a poor man in Mumbai with a taste for killing people with his giant metal pipe. Before he can escape from the scene of his first crime, he witnesses a drug-addicted cop (Vicky Kaushal) stealing from his victim and committing a murder of his own. Raman immediately sees a kindred spirit with this crooked cop and sets out on a two-year mission to help him embrace the killer inside him.

raman 3The symbiotic relationship between cop and killer is nothing new and I feel like I’ve seen every version there is of the “You complete me” speech but Kastyap shows us enough memorable images and packs enough suspense into Psycho Raman’s best scenes that his film is well worth watching. Mumbai is a compelling setting for this familiar story and, as the Fantasia Film Festival website notes, shows a side of India that most of us aren’t used to seeing.

Raman, as played by Siddiqui, clearly has a very screws loose but- like all of our favourite movie psychos- is actually quite insightful. He’s a fun character and Kastyap enjoys filming him walking in slow motion to the beat of a pop song so much that it’s easy to get the sense that he seems him as the hero of this gruesome story. It almost feels like the start of a Raman franchise.

Kastyap enjoys his serial killer so much that he often neglects the equally if not more raman 4important character of Raghavan, the cop with a dark side. The film is divided into ten chapters and way too many of them don’t feature Raghavan at all. Not that I’m complaining. Kaushal doesn’t bring anything new to the drug addict or the angry cop and his scenes are often tedious. Still, the battle over this man’s soul is the whole point and Kastyap needed to put in a little more time developing this character.

A better film would have been about 20 minutes shorter and used that time more effectively. Still, though Kastyap always cuts away before the violence becomes gory, he doesn’t pull his punches. Psycho Ramanh is a dark and uncompromising movie and you may find its villain/anti-hero tough to shake.

The Master Cleanse

The master cleanse is a cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs fad diet wherein some idiot eats nothing and drinks only a “juice” made from water, lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper and actually believes that their body is benefiting. Instead of, you know, being completely nutritionally deprived.

TheMasterCleanse_FilmStill_Final_FeaturingJohnnyGalecki_PhotoByMichaelFimognariIn the movie The Master Cleanse, the inventor, Ken Roberts, has pledged to take this purification further – let’s not just detoxify our bodies, but also our souls. And like all high end products and really good, safe ideas, it’s advertised on late-night infomercials.

Who is up late at night with only a bowl of Cheetos for company, that awful orange dust thickly coating his remote, trolling the airwaves for a quick fix for his spiritual malaise? None other than down-on-his-luck Paul (Johnny Galecki), recently (though not THAT recently) dumped and unemployed, living one functioning toilet above squalor. While the promise of a free retreat from a disembodied voice on our televisions might raise a red flag for most of us, Paul diligently irons his only suit to make the best impression.

A small group, including struggling actress Maggie (Anna Friel), and a squabbling young couple, are taken out to a remote wooded area. Bombastic Lily (Anjelica Huston) is their fearless leader, and bids them to drink special juice formulated just for them. That juice leads them to the crucial elimination phase, where all of their hurt, disappointment and trauma are physicallyBTSJohnnyBobbyAnna_TheMasterCleanse_PhotoByBobAkester eliminated…and that emotional baggage just happens to look like a cute little creature.

The dark woods, the derelict cabins, the mysterious cult leader Ken (Oliver Platt)…director Bobby Miller has all the trappings of a horror, and indeed you’ve unconsciously braced yourself for something terrible for quite some time. At a special screening at Fantasia Film Festival, Miller said that at first wallowing in sadness is cute – that Ben & Jerry’s, sweat pants phase. But if left unchecked, your emotional baggage just grows and grows, and threatens to overwhelm. Miller’s film gets pretty serious about those consequences. This is body horror with a pulsing conscience.

There is no mathematical way in which any equation involving  both toilets and horror should add up to something enjoyable, at least for me, but this did. Miller’s got some magic slipped in there somewhere, perhaps in his confidence even as a first time director in sticking with character and theme while being quite conservative in the gross-out department. It’s a lot more melancholic than you’d expect, even sympathetic, but the message is clear: shortcuts to happiness can leave you literally lost in the woods.