'Don't Breathe' is brought to us by 'Evil Dead' reboot director, Fede Alvarez. Some may recall that I put that particular reboot among my Screening Suggestions, so needless to say, I was already a fan of this relative newcomer. This was his next big title, and I gotta say, it was pretty solid.
The story centers on three young thieves; Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto). The trio makes their way by burglarizing neighborhood houses, secured by Alex's father's company, and selling the stolen goods.
So as to portray these people as "not all bad", we are shown that Rocky lives with an abusive mother and her alcoholic boyfriend. She has a tight bond with her little sister, Diddy (Emma Bercovici), and makes a deal with her to move to California, and escape their situation. However, when a deal goes raw, Rocky doesn't get the money she needs to help her and her sister out.
Money gets a tip that there's a Special Forces veteran's house worth the risk, for $300k. The catch is that they decide to do the job while this man's still at home, due to him being blind. The man is portrayed by Stephen Lang, who most would probably remember as that hard-ass Colonel from 'Avatar', and he actually gives a hell of a performance here. There is something about his delivery that's just downright disturbing, and he proves his range can extend beyond that of Colonel Miles Quaritch.
The film offers a twist perspective on the Home Invasion subgenre of horror that hosts such titles as 'The Purge', 'Panic Room' and 'The Strangers'. It was never necessarily a thing I got into, because it all felt essentially the same. This movie, however, twists it around, making the heroes of the story the home invaders, and making the guy defending his house the bad guy - and oh yes, he defends his house relentlessly, shooting at anything he hears, hence the title 'Don't Breathe'.
The other thing to really hand to this film is that it's overall kinda realistic. The real horror here comes from what seems to be a political statement about gun control, and the fact that everyone seems to need to have a firearm under their pillow. This manages to show the dangers of allowing firearms to be in the hands an individual who is clearly unstable. And the fact that Rocky's trying to escape a Hellish household situation as well as rescue her sister allows us some major leeway to see that this is something she feels she needs to do. It's not just a thrill for her, and she's far less disposable because of that.
I have to say that I was impressed, overall. It didn't entirely "wow" me, but it has enough going for it with its simple twist of an idea, likable characters, a rather creepy villain and its overall intensity, that I can recommend this to anyone looking for a recent, decent thriller. I quite enjoyed it, for myself.
What can I say about 1982's 'The Thing' that hasn't been said before? Probably not much. It lands in my "Screening Suggestions" category with very good reason. My opinion aside, however, this is a title that tends to end up on a lot of All Time Best Horror Movie lists - usually somewhere near the top. But is an alien invasion movie worth all that? What makes this one so special? Why was it criticized to pieces upon its initial release, but has grown to become a cult phenomenon among horror fans?
The basic plot involves a group of American researchers in Antarctica who, after a strange circumstance, investigate a Norwegian station, only to find some remains of a malformed body. The body is brought back to be researched, but nothing unusual is found. However, when a sled dog that was recently being pursued by the Norwegians is kenneled, and in a very grotesque way consumes the other dogs, we learn very quickly that there's something terrifying going on.
Eventually, it is discovered that a shape-shifting being of sorts is alone with the crew in this dark and desolate location. The scariest problem it carries with it, is the fact that it can turn into anything or anyone it wants. And that right there is what makes this movie such a great film for horror buffs. The film's scares are pretty abundant, but it's less about grossing us out, getting violent, or making us jump. The real horror lies in the overall seclusion of the group, and the idea that not one member of the crew can actually be trusted anymore. All of the on-the-surface scares still hold up quite well, but the intensity of the situation is what really sells the film.
Going back to this being released to negative reviews at the time, it's hard to say exactly what caused it. Some believe it was released too close to 'E.T.: The Extraterrestrial'; a much more family-friendly look at aliens. Others just see it as just bad timing due to the early 80's recession, and audiences didn't go for the more negative tones that this had to offer.
If you look at the film by today's standards, however, it holds up in a big way with its general themes of antitrust, and practical effects that SOMEHOW still hold up better than the 2011 prequel film of the same name, relying on bad CGI. Add to that a cast consisting of people like Kurt Russel, Wilford Brimley, and Kieth David, and you've got yourself a pretty solid flick.
If you happen to be reading this right now, haven't seen this movie, and you consider yourself a fan of horror, there's nothing you should be waiting for. Watch this movie. It may be a bit dated here and there, but the overall execution of it is great, and some of the imagery is bound to haunt your dreams.
Under the Radar
Upon surfing Netflix for something to fit "under the radar", I stumbled on this 'Jumanji' sounding movie about a board game that holds secrets that effect the outside world. I figured why not, watched it, and my opinion at the end of the day is... mixed.
Upon learning that their father is missing, two estranged brothers, Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John (Chase Williamson), come together at their dad's old video store to pack things in and sell off his stuff. Gordon finds a key that unlocks their Dad's back office where they discover a video board game called 'Beyond the Gates'.
The game is brought over to Gordon and his Wife, Margot's (Brea Grant) house where they decide to start playing it. They soon learn that the game intends to lead them to their missing father, and despite dire consequences the game seems to carry with it, the group (more specifically the brothers) stop at nothing to find their dad.
Now, to get into my mixed feelings on the film. The overall concept was something enjoyable. It managed to do the whole board-game-come-to-life concept without really ripping anything off. For a large part of it, the brothers don't fully realize what's going on outside of the game, and this time around it's a video board game. These were a big hit back in the late 80s and early 90s, perhaps most famous of which was 'Nightmare' (along with many sequels).
I also have to appreciate the makeup effects here, which add some fairly over the top and freakish gore, and a great look to some of the more demonic entities throughout the climactic portion of the film. Hell even the actng throughout this otherwise low-budget flick isn't that bad. Not great, but not as bad as one might expect. But that's where the twist comes in for me.
It's good to see some of the drama here, but there's a backstory that really goes nowhere (unless I just completely missed something) having to do with a prior drinking problem that Gordon had. It's touched on a few times through the movie, but it never really goes anywhere. It's just thrown in for us to try to sympathize with Gordon, as he regrets his actions so badly. I mean, I guess it's touching to see that he has something he's struggling with, but at the end of the day, it feels like filler.
That side story aside, I also think that one of the weaker actors here was Evelyn (Barbara Crampton), the host of the game. She represents the "name" for the movie. Every low budget movie needs some sort of a name to give it a bit of fuel. I've seen this actress in other things where she's been much better. She's barely intimidating here, and she could have done more to be more creepy. But I guess that's just how it was directed.
The film can be found on Netflix, so if you have an hour and a half to kill, you might wanna check it out for yourself. It's another one of those movies that I'm probably just gonna eventually forget about. Worth checking out once just to see it, but it certainly doesn't demand any kind of revisit either. It's a 3, but it's a low 3.
In this Swedish film from director Tomas Alfredson, author of the book of the same title, John Ajvide Lindqvist, also delivers the screenplay, allowing the original writer some varying creative leeway on the film. Generally a good, or at least promising thing, overall.
This particular film starts out with a kid named Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) practicing his killing moves and speech with a knife in his room with his shirt off. So pretty disturbing stuff from the get-go. However we quickly learn that Oskar is a victim of constant bullying, and our perspective changes from "I dunno if I wanna watch this" to "Let's see where this goes" petty abruptly. It's a good way to show us in just a few scenes just how troubled this boy is.
Soon, we are also introduced to the likes of Eli (Lina Leandersson), a girl who has moved into a neighboring apartment. The pair befriend each other, and we learn that there's more than meets the eye with Eli when we discover that she's, in fact, a vampire. However, this is unknown by Oskar. All he understands is that this girl seems to like him for who he is, and helps him out with his bullies.
Much of the pursuing story has to do with the more tragic side of being a vampire; having to consume nothing but blood, perhaps the idea of losing your loved ones, and in Eli's case, trying to be friends with a boy who seems understands her, but without revealing what she is. And yeah, there's a romantic side to this as well.
That said, the aspects of vampirism are a bit more scattered through the movie. The main focus of this IS the relationship between Oskar and Eli. I personally found that they used it more to show how much Eli cares for Oskar as opposed to just showing off a bunch of special effects. In fact, the overall execution of anything vampiric here is fairly subtle, once again proving that big budgets aren't necessarily... necessary.
I think I can actually admit without much hesitation that this falls somewhere on my list of favorite vampire movies. Although there are some truly disturbing moments within the film, it's just a different take on the whole thing. With it's moderately artistic execution, it's an intriguing change from any vampire stuff I'm more used to. By bringing down the aspects of Eli being a vampire and focusing more on the blossoming friendship, the whole thing could be seen symbolically as how strong a friendship can hold upon discovering stranger and stranger things about your friend. Will you be scared off, or will you stay because you still like who the person is?
Under the Radar
In my search for Halloween-ish movies that float under the radar, this particular recommendation caught my interest. Aside from the disturbingly intriguing title, the concept sounded good to me. As far as I knew, going into it, we had Jessica (Zohra Lampert); a recently released mental patient who may or may not be losing touch with reality again. And what I got was... well, pretty much that, but in a much different way than I had assumed.
Jessica and her husband, Duncan (Barton Heyman) move into a quiet farm house only to find a girl named Emily (Mariclare Costello) is squatting there. The couple end up inviting her to stay, and soon, Jessica starts seeing strange things - namely a girl's body floating around in the lake, know to have not been found after she apparently drowned. It really does end up being a bit of a Michigan J. Frog situation in that whenever Jessica wants to show and/or tell her husband and friends something, they kinda just brush it off and wonder if she's mentally healthy.
For the most part, I honestly found the film to be pretty dull and boring. It does carry a decent atmosphere, has some pretty genuinely creepy moments, and attempts to tackle the truly horrific matter of mental health issues, but does so in a sort of lame way. It's just another ghost movie at the end of the day, at least for me. I just think I've seen it done much better.
This may not be a bad movie for those seeking something that's not truly horrific, but eerie. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't find it just sort of dull. Not without its moments, but overall just dry and dull. I guess its meant to be something more psychological, but again, it's just been done better since, in my humble opinion.
When all said and done, I don't think I can take much away from this one, and I don't really recommend it for those seeking a good scary movie. This almost turns out to be something you could find on Sunday afternoon TV. I can't truly give it to the performances, the soundtrack, the overall execution, or much else. The only leeway I can give it is that it was 1971, and this is well-before a lot of the better horror out there anyway.
So, here I sit wanting to write something a little more genuine about the film, but I've honestly said all there is to say from my perspective. For myself, this was straight up watching paint dry for the most part. Small points for atmosphere and creepy imagery, but again, I have seen creepier. This is just a one-off 70's flick no one needs to revisit, or hardly even visit once. I'm just glad the dialogue wasn't insultingly bad.
Surprisingly enough, although the Creeper from these three films has largely become one of the more famous modern horror villains, I've gone all this time without bothering. For whatever reason, there just wasn't much of a draw for me. And oh yes, it has been a highly recommended series for me, as a horror fan. Anyway, this year I figured I'd finally give it a whirl for my Halloween special.
We are introduced to two siblings, Trish (Gina Phillips) and Darry (Justin Long) who are taking a long scenic route home for Spring Break through Nowheresville. Soon, the driver of an erratically-driven truck is seen by Darry, seemingly dumping dead bodies down a hole near a church. Convincing Trish to go back and check it out, Darry falls down the hole and finds himself in a very disturbing setup involving human bodies being sewn together.
Upon escaping, the two find themselves being hunted by the Creeper - a monster of sorts, who kills you because he wants to eat some specific part of you in order to gain strength in whatever that part gives. Pretty scary concept, considering you never quite know what this thing is after if it does start chasing you.
Now, perhaps it's because I came into it so late in the game, but there was something about Justin Long that threw me off here. It reminded me of seeing Paul Rudd in 'Curse of Michael Myers', in that I just couldn't get enough seriousness from the actor. That said, 'Curse' sucked while this was actually still pretty entertaining for what it was. I'm not sure I loved it or anything, but it was a fun horror survivor adventure.
I have to admit that I enjoyed the design of the Creeper as well. Once you see this thing up close and personal, it's an interesting combination of makeup that looks sort of cheesy, but still sort of horrifying. Kinda like someone who just went all out on a Halloween costume. He's actually kinda badass as well, considering his kills. He kills in a bit more of a Jason fashion - quick and brutal, and there's something about that I dig when it comes to slashers.
The thing that really makes the movie stand out, at least speaking for myself, however, is the ending. I won't say what happens, but it leaves you with this truly uneasy feeling, along with a sort of respect for the Creeper as a new horror villain who could stand out among others.
What more can be said? This first film left me wanting more. Not scrambling to get at more, but a genuine curiosity to see where things could potentially go. I think I'll be checking out the sequels at some point or another soon enough, so keep an eye out for that.
Under the Radar
So here we have an example of a film that hasn't been doing too badly, as far as criticism goes. It's a bit split down the middle, but the majority of people seem to be enjoying it. I suppose I can see why it would appeal to true blue horror fans, but personally, I just didn't find any real connection to this film.
The setup involves two girls, Tara and Dawn (Jenna Kanell and Catherine Corcoran, respectively) who have been out partying on Halloween, and they end up getting stocked by this creepy clown guy; Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton).
The film is ultimately a throwback to the stalker slasher movies of yesteryear, but things are generally just far more uncomfortable to watch with this one. I have to give credit to Thornton for his portrayal of this psycho clown - he's creepy as hell, and honestly has the potential to be a modern day "great" as far as horror villains go. However what the rest of the movie divulges seems to be not much more than bad acting from others, a whole lot of screaming and oh yes, a bit of torture porn - which I tend to veer away from. But oh yeah, there's plenty of blood and gore to be had here for the slightly more sick-hearted.
A lot of what makes this movie compelling to horror fans is just the creepy imagery it offers on top of the gore. For myself, I have to admit I appreciated the fact that this was a movie that made me uneasy, for the most part. In a way, as a horror movie, that's what it's supposed to do. But it ends up feeling like one of those movies that makes you wanna take a shower after watching it.
At the end of the day, I mostly found this to be a bad movie with good horror elements, if that makes any sense at all. I'm not kidding when I tell you so much of the movie is just this clown going to town on his victims with a knife. In a way, it seemed very cheap. But in other ways, this is a good example of how a low budget can do wonders for the overall atmosphere of a horror film.
By the way, if clowns freak you out, this might be better avoided. I'm not scared of clowns at all, but there was something about Art that just got under my skin. He's like a kid with a violent temper tantrum who's lost his toy and keeps taking it out on others... with knives. It just gets so gruesome at times, it's a perfect example of "movie meat". Another good example of this would be the final fight scene in 'Freddy vs Jason', just for reference.
I'm gonna go ahead and give it a bad rating, as the overall content ended up being a bit much for my particular tastes. But again, I can't deny that this movie will have a lot working for it as far as a deeper horror audience than myself is concerned. If you wanta good, creepy, gorey, blood bath of a torturous movie, it's not a bad place to start.
I'm not gonna lie, it's not really like I was expecting a whole hell of a lot from this one. But, it's Halloween time and I'm here to see Halloween-like movies through the month, so here we are. If nothing else, a good slasher movie can be a bit of creepy fun to get you in the mood for the holiday. But if I were to use a word to describe this one's overall quality, I might go with "disappointing".
We open up with the introduction of our three main characters, and the setup is fairly typical. Natalie (Amy Forsyth) is the "virgin" survivor girl type, she has a best friend named Brooke (Reign Edwards) trying like hell to hook her up with a new man, and a comic relief character named Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus) who is 100% obsessed with Halloween, horror, and everything dark, twisted and evil - but in a fun way.
The three of them hook up with a few guys, as they explore an annual Halloween event called Hell Fest - a travelling horror show set up for the Halloween season full of creepy actors, mazes, games and rides. We have something like that in Canada called "Halloween Haunt" at Canada's Wonderland, Ontario - I can confirm that it is indeed a good time. If you get the chance to check out anything representative of the concept of this movie, check it out, it's a good time. But I digress.
Wandering through this whole thing is some dude in a mask, stalking this group of potential on-screen victims. It pretty much just goes typical slasher horror from there, and there's not much else to be expected. But I have to say that what bothered me about the movie was the fact that we're at this travelling horror show full of all sorts of neat stuff that could be used as an improvised murder weapon, but we don't REALLY get much of that. I think the one time it happens (which I guess is debatable) it's PAINFULLY obvious what's gonna happen, right down to the visual gag to be. I can almost guarantee that any reader going through this who has seen the movie knows precisely the kill I'm talking about.
I'm not entirely sure what else there is to say about it. It has a few plus sides, like teasing the audience as to who the real killer is, hiding it inside a horror show where things are supposed to look terrifying, and an... interesting ending, to say the least. It was the kind of ending that kinda just brought up more questions, but at the same time, it feels like that's what it's supposed to do. So check it out for yourself, but I wouldn't expect much more than you see in the trailer. It's fun for Halloween, but not much of a memorable experience beyond that.
Throughout the past few decades, this particular gem has been seen by many to be sort of the 'Godfather' of horror movies. In other words, the ultimate film for its respective genre. By today's standards, it could just be seen as another demonic possession movie, considering how many of those exist now. But I do believe you have this particular film to thank (or blame, depending on where you stand on the sub-genre) for it all.
This one goes back to 1973, and is based on a book that is based on a real-life case of supposed demon possession. It later turned out to be some sort of mental disorder, I believe, though many who have heard audio would argue until their blue in the face about it being real possession. What can you do? People think the Earth is flat nowadays, too. Either way though, if you can find the audio of the "exorcism", go for it, real or fake, it's pretty disturbing sounding stuff, and it ultimately made way for how bloody disturbing this movie is.
Your basic plot, if you don't know at this point, involves a lovely, innocent young girl name Regan (Linda Blair) being possessed by some demonic entity. It takes her over, abuses her from the inside out, makes her head turn around like she's an owl, makes her vomit pea soup, and gives her telekinetic abilities among other things. Her mother (Ellen Burstyn) calls for the aid of Father Karras and Father Merrin (Jason Miller and Max von Sydow, respectively) to exorcise the demon, and restore Regan back to her old self.
For my money, I would say that this is one of those horror movies that has aged extremely well over the years. In fact, back when I was still in high school, they released an extended cut of the film to theaters which seems to be the current takeover from the original. It's like the 'Star Wars: Special Edition' trilogy, but with no use of terribly aged CGI. This extended cut was quite literally just adding some scenes that were a bit too much for the time - the most famous of which has got to be her crab walk down the stairs while she spits up blood. Terrifying to hear, but iI'll be damned if I didn't rewind that and watch it again due to thinking it was badass (there might be something wrong with me).
Anyway, when all said and done, I also kind of consider this to be the film that made me face the horror genre head-on. Horror used to scare me growing up with the disturbing dialogue and imagery, and simply seeing clips from 'The Exorcist' would manage to put me on edge. So when I finally decided that enough was enough, my test was to watch this film, in its entirety, while home alone for a night. I managed, but that may have been because it was edited for TV. But with that said, nowadays, I find the genre to be a fun ride more than anything... except for torture porn, which I find completely cheap... also, yeah, I admit the whole demon/ghost thing is getting old as well. But this one is the one I'd probably recommend the highest out of any demonic possession movie, because hell, it's the original, and it's done completely with practical effects.
Under the Radar
This year's Halloween special kicks off with, of all things, a documentary. And, I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, it's one of the more disturbingly frightening documentaries I've had the pleasure of viewing. It covers a phenomenon that many must unfortunately go through, called sleep paralysis - and having never suffered through it, it's a whole lot that I hope I never have to deal with. I further completely sympathize with those who have gone through it 'cause to me, a bad nightmare is more than enough.
The documentary covers (I believe) eight separate cases going from an ongoing, nightly problem for some to a fairly resolved issue for others. The whole thing basically involves being caught between asleep and awake, unable to move, and having to deal with dark, seemingly demonic presences looming over you the whole time. Sometimes they hover over your bed and stare at you, others, they sit up on your chest, pinning you down, red-eyed, telling you you're gonna die. Considering that this whole thing is a real deal people have to suffer through, believing in demonic forces or not, is actually pretty terrifying.
I never could have predicted that I'd find the next movie to make me lose sleep over fear to be a documentary about a horrible sleep disorder. This was actually my second time around with it after about two years. Tamer the second time around, but I do recall that first viewing causing me to stare out my bedroom window upon trying to sleep, hoping to myself "shit, I hope that doesn't happen to me tonight" because, surprise, it can happen to anyone!
The whole thing is perhaps a little over-dramatized with actors portraying these strange and unusual creatures, demons, shadow men, and whatever else the whole thing entails. But the real scare here comes from, again, the reality of it all.
If you wish to check it out for yourself, it can be found quite easily on Netflix nowadays, and I have to admit that I DO recommend it for this Halloweenish time of year to get one in that dark/fun mood. Yeah, there's a bit of religious talk here and there with this one, but it's actually well-balanced with an opposing scientific perspective as well. It turns out that no one quite knows exactly how sleep paralysis works altogether, especially considering that over the centuries, the shapes and forms found within this phenomenon have seemingly always been a thing.
So, demonic forces at work, peeking from behind that veil of reality, or just a really messed up dream where the body doesn't work properly? I'd tend to go with the latter, considering I get the "fall/jump" dream all the time (that dream where you lose your balance and are startled awake, having a jump scare in your bed and feeling dumb about it). I could see paralysis being a very similar phenomenon. Just a whole lot creepier. It's an eye-opening doc, to be sure.