This title is so very under the radar that it doesn't have a Wiki page (that I can find), the entire cast and crew are unfamiliar names (unless maybe you're British), it's low budget as all hell, and its Rotten Tomato page averages the film at 75% - 100% of that being a whopping 5 critic reviews. However, this is something I actually kind of admired for what it was. It's a title I think deserves to be out there for horror fans to explore.
Now, when I say "horror fans", I mean those who can appreciate this particular blend of 'Evil Dead', 'And Then There Were None' (which is really more mystery) and 'House on Haunted Hill'. Somehow, they made that all fit together here, and the low budget completely lends itself to the effects of old, classic cinema. Yeah, it sometimes looks ridiculous, but you can't help but feel that's what they meant to do. On top of that, it IS classified as a horror/comedy, so I feel a lot of cheap special effects are forgivable. Having said that, I should probably note that it's not exactly a knee-slapper of a horror/comedy either - this is saying a lot, as that's my favourite sub-genre.
The plot is about as basic as it gets. A number of characters, including George (Tom Bailey), Christine (Margaret Clunie), Jeffrey Bank (Robert Llewellyn), Freddie (Timothy Renouf), Victor (Charlie Robb) and Elizabeth (Jessica Webber) get invited to a fancy dinner party at a gigantic Manor. It's the old whodunnit set-up, hosted by some unnamed guy (Jasper Britton). However, instead of the classic situation where everyone gets to know each other, the lights flicker, and the first murder is committed for a night of problem-solving, only the first of these is true to form.
Instead, our Host wishes to conduct a seance with the help of a medium named Madame Bellrose (Maureen Bennett) in order to contact the spirit of the mansion's former owner, Ichabod Quinn (Nicholas Le Prevost). As one can probably guess, the seance goes awry, and before the group knows it, they are face to face with what can only be considered another version of "Deadites" from 'Evil Dead'. Can they survive the night, and close the gate to Hell they just accidentally opened? Sooo... not entirely original on the whole, but once again, this one's more about the execution of things.
The way this plays out is as though it's an old-timey horror/mystery film from the 30s or 40s but if they were allowed to do things like 'Evil Dead' was able to do by 1981. It would have been terrifying for the time, and I can't help but appreciate that aspect of it. I have a thing for something that can use old material but put a new spin on it. The only real problem I have with this is that it's just not really funny at all. There were times I may have snickered a bit, but I'm fairly convinced I wasn't exactly meant to. This is a movie I can appreciate for what it tried to do, but it sadly does fall a little bit flat. However, with the right audience, I do believe this has some kind of cult-following potential. For those of you who have Shudder, go check it out and decide for yourself.
Here we have what turned out to be a happy accident, as this review was originally to be something that I couldn't end up finding. Therefore, some last-minute research on something to replace it lead me to this title that actually turned out to be right up my alley. I will say that it's not exactly the best of its kind. But it does take a different sort of turn with the typical "camp counsellors in the woods" scenario in its overall execution. It's not what I'd call entirely original, but it seems to borrow from all the right things to make it all work.
The film kicks off with the lead camp counsellor for Camp Clear Vista, Sam (Fran Kranz) running away from something, panicked, sweaty and covered in blood. He uses his cell to contact his friend, Charlotte, better known through the film as "Chuck" (Alyson Hannigan). Chuck is a hardcore horror fan who works at a comic book store called "Rings of Saturn". Sam explains that a killer is on the loose at camp, and begins recounting the events to her in an effort to get her advice on the situation. It's not long, however, before the obvious is stated, and the walkthrough Chuck gives Sam becomes a little more than she bargained for.
One thing I picked up on, whether it was on purpose or not, was the names of a lot of these counsellors. One by one, we had Carol (Olivia Jaye Brown), Ted (Jesse Gallegos), Steve the "Kayak King" (Bryan Price), Drew (Sara Catherine Bellamy), Alice (Clara Chong), Heather (Carol Jean Wells), Freddie (Jack Murillo), Nancy (Savannah DesOrmeaux), Brad (Patrick Walker), Jamie (Jenna Harvey), and Sam's last summer fling he's still in love with, Imani (Brittany S. Hall). I won't go super detailed on some of the character names here, but I will note that a lot of it feels like nods to horror icons - namely 'Elm Street' characters (at least some of them).
Back to the film itself, I thought the dark comedy worked really well here. I appreciated Hannigan's sort of casual take on the whole situation, and a lot of her delivery is pretty funny. There she is, chatting on her phone in the middle of her store talking about murder, blood, killers etc. Therefore, we get a LOT of hilarious customer reactions, as they are all hearing it out of context. I might suggest that side of it is the highlight of the film, as everything else is more or less pretty typical stuff - the only difference being that we're following who might be the killer as opposed to the teenage movie meat waiting to happen. They also used this scenario with two of my favourite horror comedies, 'Behind the Mask' and 'Tucker and Dale vs Evil'. So I think I've found that I definitely have a thing for a good horror/comedy feature that's more about the killer and not so much the innocent victims.
I feel like I should also bring up the quality of the kills in the movie. I'm not gonna sit here and say it's amazing, but there's a lot of that old school 'Friday the 13th' spirit put into this where it's more about something quick and brutal to make the audience go "OOooh!" I've never been one for the torturous aspect of the kill, so this is what I personally prefer. Kills in a movie are like a cup of coffee; everyone has their formula for a good cup. Anyway, for whatever reason, I found it almost refreshing to see kills like this. That sounds really awful, I know, but all I mean is that this felt like it took it back to the old school style that movies like 'Halloween' and, again, 'Friday the 13th' perfected. Of course, maybe I've just been under a rock and missing out on a bunch of solid titles that have gone over my head.
This is a title that can be found on Shudder right now, and I'm not altogether sure where else, so watching it could be a bit tricky. That said, this isn't quite as up there as something like 'Tucker and Dale' where I wanna drag horror fans in by the ear to watch it. But it is something I'd recommend to horror fans to check out, if they can, nonetheless. It strikes me as one of those "throw on any old time" movies that don't make it onto anyone's "favourites" list, but it's enough that you could be in the mood for it every once in a while. I think if nothing else, a horror fan can have some fun with it. I know I did.
Despite this one being located "under the radar", it seems pretty evident that there are a lot of people out there who are familiar with this title. Personally, I've known of its existence since its 2017 release. Word spread about it being an absolutely solid Japanese horror/comedy flick, but for whatever reason, I just never gave it the time of day until now. My final conclusion though, spoiler alert, is that this is a unique example of how to take two completely overdone horror clichés and make something really good out of them.
This film manages to blend the concepts of found footage and zombie films and create what could be considered a work of directorial art from them... and that's just the first part of it. With that said, I'm going to try my best to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, and that is going to be extremely hard. So perhaps focus should mostly go to this first half. It entails a hack director, Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) who gets frustrated with his film's actors, and we see him storm off. Meanwhile, we learn through actors Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama) and Ko (Kazuaki Nagaya) along with makeup artist, Nao (Harumi Shuhama) that the abandoned water filtration plant they're shooting in has a pretty horrific history.
This history, of course, involves human experimentation and the eventual lead to zombification. Before long, the zombie film 'One Cut of the Dead' within the zombie film 'One Cut of the Dead' turns from fantasy to reality, as actual zombies terrorize the set. This, in turn, actually results in a pretty wonderful combination of comedic moments and high adrenaline. The comedy comes from zombies often being mistaken as actors, but the adrenaline comes from what is essentially a 40-minute single shot of zombie action, complete with chase scenes, gore and things that would be very hard to do in a single take. So huge kudos to these guys for managing it!
As far as the second part of it goes, that's where things get extremely tricky. There's a big reveal, and it gets way too deep into spoiler territory, but I will say this about it - it's very clever! If you want to know what's what and don't care about spoilers, then I'd urge you to take a look at the Wikipedia plot synopsis for this because from my perspective, I'd sooner highly recommend just watching the movie. It's a Shudder Exclusive at the moment, so if you don't have Shudder, you may be SOL. But if you can find a way to watch it, I'd say it's worth the approximate hour and a half, if only to refresh one's perspective on found footage and zombie films.
To top everything off, this is also a film largely dedicated to people who are into filmmaking and the whole behind-the-scenes process of everything. It has some truly unique ideas, it doesn't hold back on making you laugh, and it's also just very impressive filmmaking altogether. The one-cut concept already makes the movie pretty awesome, but then when the tables turn on the film, and the reveal happens, it's enough to make one want to applaud the real writer/director of this, Shin'ichirô Ueda. Once again, I'm happy to say that my mind is opened just a little bit more after checking this one out. If you enjoy found footage and/or zombies on any sort of level, this one comes recommended highly by yours truly.
Topping off these B movies is the truly unique 'Angry Red Planet'. While definitely landing under the category of "so bad it's good", I have to at least give the film a little bit of credit for creativity. We see it in the cinematography, as it makes everything on Mars an odd shade of red (almost like a photo negative), and in the creature design - most famously, if you Google this movie, you're bound to see a giant crab, spider, bat... thing. It's would-be nightmare fuel if it didn't look so corny.
The film also goes by the names 'Invasion of Mars' (not to be confused with 'Invaders from Mars') and 'Journey to Planet Four'. The interesting mix of (RED/ORANGE) colours in the Mars scenery, and hilariously designed creatures are largely due to a low budget time restraint of only nine days to film! Could you imagine filming a whole movie in nine days!? Even famously rushed films get about a month (give or take). Anyway, this gave way to "CineMagic", which combines hand-drawn animation with live-action (way before 'Roger Rabbit'). However, the process created clearly terrible-looking stuff (even if it feels original), and was only seemingly used once more for a 'Three Stooges' movie.
As for the film, it opens with mission control awaiting the arrival of the "Mars Rocket 1", following the first manned mission to Mars. On its way in, however, ground technicians can't seem to communicate with the astronauts. The ship is safely landed by remote control, and only two of the four crewmembers are found alive; Dr. Iris Ryan (Naura Hayden) and Col. Tom O'Bannion (Gerald Mohr). O'Bannion's arm is covered in a strange alien gunk, and this ultimately leads to a "how did we get here?" story, as Ryan explains the mission in detail during her debriefing. So most of the film is a story in memory.
As one can probably expect, this is full of all the wonderful cheese that we've come to expect from your average 50's B movie (1959, specifically). The ultimate message, in the end, had a lot to do with how advancing technology is a dangerous thing. But the final bit of the movie where this message takes place is actually too funny to spoil. It's not a big deal, but when all said and done, it's totally laughable (which probably doesn't come as much of a surprise). And for as much credit as I may give the film for originality, none of that actually makes the movie any good. I mean, a log of poop that can breathe fire and speak fluently is original too, but try handing that idea into a big-time producer.
Simply put, this is, like most B movies of the era, super fun and corny. It's an acid trip of a romp, loaded with the finest cheese, and almost has to be seen to be believed with some of the choices made. Fair warning, things start really slow. So don't fret if you're not laughing at the absurdity of everything from the get-go. Personally speaking, I found things got "good" right around the time you first see Mars' surface. But with that said, it's a part of Amazon Prime's collection if you're a subscriber. So if you have about an hour and a half with which to lose your mind, head on over and check it out
This one comes to us from Roger Corman; a name synonymous with B movies that we watch as guilty pleasures these days. In fact, look no further than the library of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' mockery. The list is pretty extensive. I might also add that this isn't the only one of his movies I have on this list. Basically, this was a guy who could parallel the ever-famous Ed Wood in the same era of schlock.
An alien, calling himself "Mr. Johnson" (Paul Birch), takes up residence in Los Angeles. He talks kind of strange, and has this weird thing about wearing sunglasses (even at night, as he goes full Corey Hart), but otherwise appears basically normal. Although, behind those shades lies a stare that can kill, just by looking at it. Hailing from a planet called Davanna, his people have developed an incurable blood disease, and he was sent to collect human blood for its similarities. He manages to off a few victims here; all the while his assistant, Jeremy (Jonathan Haze) being completely unaware.
Our "Heroes" of this film are the witty nurse Nadine Storey (Beverly Garland), whom Johnson hires for housekeeping, and her cop buddy, Harry Sherbourne (Morgan Jones). If you're looking for people to route for here, you don't really get it, though. There's a lot of dryness to these characters, and a lot of the jokes are lame. The real humour of this comes from the casual dialogue, often involving blood. Some choice lines include "You shall have blood" and "If I do not receive blood within four chronoctons of time, I will have no need of emotion." The delivery is similar to Maggie saying "I need blood" at the end of 'Treehouse of Horror IX'.
This is another one of those movies you might put on a Bad Movie Night list. But with that said, I think there are better titles (even for that purpose) out there. This one feels like you might need more of a twisted sense of humour to really like the dialogue in the same way someone like myself does. I know it's weird, but casual banter about blood with the right delivery can be hilarious. Think of Patrick Stewart telling one of his fellow actors "I need your blood" just randomly. It's like there has to be some sort of class behind it for it to be funny. Anyway, a bit hard to narrow down, but if you check out this flick (available for free, a lot of places online) you'll get what I'm talking about.
Now, one unanswered question my readers may be wondering is what in Planet X's hellish orbit is that thing in the accompanying pic? While I was under the impression that this creature would have been the focus of this movie, going into it, it's merely a sort of drone that gets called upon by Johnson to dispose of anyone who finds out he's "not of the Earth". But I've gotta say, it's funny when it does show up. So, if nothing else, this all amounts to a fun movie to watch if you have the time for a little over an hour of random stupidity, and quotes about blood you may never hear elsewhere. Get the friends together and have a laugh!
Sadly, I kick off my 2022 with a ginormous surge of Covid 19 cases in my general area. But, as theaters close in the area, and with my sense of it happening any time after the holidays, I have set up a rather fun month for January altogether, starting with the exploration of some old school B movies! As we enter our third year of this crapola, let's face it, we all need to smile, and I thought old B movies were a great, unexplored category for me.
We kick it off with something mildly entertaining for all the wrong reasons (as one would expect), 'Attack of the Puppet People'. This one was originally made to capitalize on 'The Incredible Shrinking Man', which is widely considered a great sci-fi classic. However, what we get is a "horror" film that makes 'Honey I Shrunk the Kids' look like 'Hellraiser'. I think the horror is supposed to come from the idea of being shrunk down and experiencing some kind of terrible micro world. But truth be told, there's little to no real horror going on here, and I've definitely seen more disturbing material from films that predate this.
The film opens with a Brownie troop paying a visit to a doll factory, owned by Mr. Franz (John Hoyt). As part of Franz's collection, he displays a "special collection" of incredibly life-like dolls in glass containers, as well. Meanwhile, a Ms. Sally Reynolds (June Kenney) applies for a secretary position for Franz after his original secretary mysteriously disappeared. She reluctantly takes the job, but is weary of Franz's obsession with his "special dolls". Enter a travelling salesman named Bob Westley (John Agar) who falls for Sally and eventually asks for her hand in marriage after a few weeks (different times, I suppose).
After breaking the marriage news (that would ultimately have her quitting her job) to the ever-lonely Mr. Franz, Bob mysteriously goes missing. It's not long, however, until we find out that Franz has transformed him into a doll, and Sally meets the same fate, as most of the film has to do with these characters in shrunken form (so I don't see this as any sort of spoiler). So, much of the film has to do with Franz's obsessive loneliness, and these victims he's forcing to be his "playthings." I suppose there's a message here about not being a jerk about your loneliness, but it's all a big stretch.
Usually, I tend to have fun with these old B movies, as they tend to be so ridiculously over the top. However this wasn't all that entertaining, despite how highly it was recommended as a solid, yet cheesy B movie title. It's not without a few laughs, but the laughs are slight. To put it another way, I got my biggest laugh from Sally screaming at a giant phone. Random, right? Well, if you like random like I do, then this isn't terrible. But I will say that it's not one I'd highly recommend as a "so bad it's good" flick either.
Over the years, filmmaking has developed the miniature world into things like, again, 'Honey, I Shrunk the Kids', 'The Secret World of Arrietty' and most recently, the 'Ant-Man' movies. Things just get better as things progress, and to go back to this is nothing too impressive. As was mentioned before, you had other movies at this point that illustrate it better, and scarier. 'The Fly' would come out the following year and pretty much make this obsolete with the famous "Help Me" scene (which still somehow gets under my skin). There was really next to no saving grace for this one, and I say stick to other, similar movies of the era for better entertainment.
This one is actually a little bit of a cheat, as it's a Shudder exclusive, and I have it placed here, "Under the Radar". Honestly though, it fits. It's actually a pretty interesting flick for anyone who appreciates a good blend of comedy and over-the-top gore. 'Evil Dead 2' perhaps being the best example. However, there's nothing occult surrounding this at all. This one's about a virus, predates Covid-19, and is one of the more relatable movies for the psyche as of late.
This is very much a comedy horror version of your average "bad day" movie (this is where someone finally "snaps", but does so in a way that a general audience can relate to) In this case, it involves a virus that activates that little thing in your head that says "f*ck it, this is happening", leading to rage tantrums, hardcore violence, screaming out of frustration, and sex out in the open. In other words, inhibitions go out the window, completely. Here, a known (but fictional) virus finds its way into an office building, which gets quarantined, effects everyone inside, and this is what leads to the film's namesake.
We meet Derek Cho (Steven Yeun), who has climbed the ladder of success at a law firm. One morning, he meets with a client named Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving), desperate for more time on a loan. However, Cho does not help her, and calls security. So yes, this is one where you route for the underdog, but you're knowingly also routing for a bit of a jerk. The "underdog" part comes from him being pinned for a botched legal case for a major company called Vandacorp by his superior, Kara "The Siren" Powell (Caroline Chikezie) - nicknamed for always having the John "The Boss" Towers' (Steven Brand) ear, whose nickname is obvious.
After discovering this, Derek takes it to the top, confronting Powell, and bringing it to Towers' attention. This fails terribly, resulting in Derek's firing by HR chief Lester "The Reaper" McGill (again, nicknamed for obvious reasons). He's offered a hefty severance package from McGill if he takes the blame, but Derek refuses to compromise his integrity, and more importantly, realizes he could be disbarred and sued as a result. During all of this, the virus is slowly taking effect on everyone in the building, including Derek, who has definitely had the last straw.
One nice little loophole that Derek and Melanie have to work with is the fact that one time this virus infected another locale where a brutal murder took place, and the killer was cleared due to him being helpless against the virus. That's another interesting concept to me, which reminds me of the idea of 'The Purge' - the concept that there IS a way to get away with murder quite legally due to some crazy loophole. It may not be realistic, but it's something interesting to think about.
Not forgetting about the lovely Melanie Cross, Derek and Melanie actually end up sort of teaming up here, both having a terrible day, and both out for the same person's blood... somewhat literally. To be quite frank and honest, I actually love this concept. It makes me think of the average zombie virus that often effects the animalistic rage portion of the brain, but without it being a zombie movie. It's a "what if" scenario involving everyone actually carrying out their inner-most brutal thoughts.
What more can I say? This is not going to be for everyone, as there's quite a bit of off the wall stuff happening here. Like, imagine walking into a room and in a couple of different corners, people are having sex, while in other parts, there's fist fighting and possibly even murder just unfolding before your eyes. What I liked about this so much was that this was a lead that sort of had to get humbled after being a jerk. It's interesting, you don't really like Cho much at first, but after the day he has, you do end up routing for him. As for Melanie, she's just fun times. So, having a terrible day? Check it out for yourself, and enjoy they Mayhem that this movie is so appropriately named for.
For yours truly, there really is something about the horror comedy that comes from the British commonwealth. A lot of it has to do with the fact that they always seem to have such fun with things, and you know that with these you're almost always in for a really solid B movie. Here we have an Irish creature feature that's no exception, and I honestly just want to see more horror comedy from Ireland now.
We are introduced to Garda Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle), and Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley). "Garda", for anyone unfamiliar can roughly be translated to "Officer". O'Shea is a resentful alcoholic lazybones who somewhat resents Nolan, his new workaholic partner who takes a job on a remote Irish island where the townsfolk have discovered mutilated whale corpses along the beach. Soon enough, it is revealed that a group of tentacled aliens, varying in size, are the source of the attack.
Where things get really fun here are when the town lush, Paddy (Lalor Roddy) remarkably survives an attack, and it's soon theorized by local marine ecologist, Dr. Smith (Russell Tovey) that alcohol is their best defense. While these creatures thrive on water and blood, alcohol seems to provide a sort of poison to them. So, indeed, a lot of the humour to this movie does come from drunken Irish dialogue. But seeing as this is from the Irish, it makes me think a lot aboot us here in Canada embracing our stereotypes so well, eh?
I don't think there's a whole lot else left to say about it, so here we have a pretty short review. I think if I were to compare it to anything as far as "mood" goes with American films, it's a lot like 'Eight-Legged Freaks' in that it's a B movie that recognizes itself as a B movie, and it's one of the finer examples of, once again, a nation embracing its stereotypes and just having a good time with things. I thought this was actually a lot of fun, and I do tend to have a sort of bias towards modern B movies like this.
Unfortunately, however, this one is pretty damn hard to find, so one will certainly have to do some digging in order to find and enjoy it. But if you can find it (currently rentable from Apple TV), and you enjoy these kinds of movies as much as I do, AND can get past some of the language, I recommend grabbing some salty snacks, plenty of beer, and enjoying the silly sci-fi fun that is 'Grabbers'.
Here's another one of those movies that has been on my radar for several years now, solely based on the subject matter of "Nazi Zombies". Because sometimes, even I can be a gore hound, and what better way to have fun with that than offing something one couldn't possibly have much sympathy for? There is something more satisfying in seeing them get treated like slabs of Hollywood meat, and I believe there is good reason this has actually become a bit of a cliché over the years. Hell, 'South Park' even jokes about it in 'Stick of Truth'.
But please don't get me wrong, I do stick to the fact that I enjoy "human" stories, and often enjoy seeing a certain "good" side to Nazis - I know how that sounds, but 'Schindler's List' is a fine example of this. Or a scene in 'Band of Brothers' I recall with an American talking to a Nazi soldier, only to find out they're from the same town, and that particular German was simply called into action, fighting through no real fault of his own. But with that said, this is NOT that. This is, as the trailer suggests, 'Evil Dead' meets 'Dawn of the Dead', and comes to us from Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola - the guy who also did 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters'. And while that probably doesn't sound impressive, I can say with all honesty that I had a great time with this.
We meet seven students on Easter vacation, headed to a small cabin near Øksfjord, Norway. In one car, Martin (Geir Vegar Hoel), Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), Vegard (Lasse Valdal) and Erland (Jeppe Beck Laursen). In the other car, Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten) and Chris (Jenny Skavlan). Once there, they are met by a mysterious stranger, or harbinger, if you will (Bjørn Sundquist) who warns them of the supposedly cursed history of the area. Once occupied by Nazis, led by the Hitler-paralleling Herzog (Ørjan Gamst), they tortured the locals until there was an eventual uprising towards the end of the war. Surviving Nazis, including Herzog, were chased into the woods, and eventually presumed to have frozen to death. In reality, however, their fate was much worse.
Soon enough, things go pretty much as you expect. Group in cabin finds foreign object (in this case, stolen gold) and unleashes unspeakable evil that pursues them through the rest of the film. So in many ways, it's relatively typical - 'Cabin in the Woods' even uses this scenario as a sort of farce on American horror. And while it does come down to survival, it also has something to say about greed, and even deeper things I caught, like how our rage during times of war can lead to hurting our loved ones. If you've seen it movie, you know exactly the scene I mean. So I can't really say that there's no heart put into this. It also has a solid sense of humour, and even what could be one of my new favourite all-time deaths.
The film's real star, however, is just the gorey kills. It's a lot like 'Evil Dead' that way, where the more splatter there is going on, the more into it you are. If they decide to make this a musical one day, it may also involve a "Splatter Zone", just like 'Evil Dead' did. I think in many ways this is very typical for both the zombie subgenre and the horror genre. But there were just enough moments in here to make it incredibly fun for me. If you are a gore hound of any kind, I can recommend this one pretty highly as something to just sit back and enjoy with a bag of popcorn. Just one more thing though - don't expect a happy ending.
For the life of me, I can't remember where I first saw the trailer for this. But I can remember going out to find and purchase the film solely based on said trailer. It was off the wall horror comedy about, basically, "weresheep" in New Zealand. This struck me as a pretty brilliant concept as well, considering what I learned in school about the sheep of New Zealand outnumbering the human population (according to Google, about 5 sheep for every 1 human). So the idea is actually scary enough, albeit altogether silly. Sure enough, I ended up liking it, showing a few friends, and I currently consider it a guilty pleasure.
We meet Henry Oldfield (Nick Fenton) who lives in the calm and lovely country area of New Zealand along with his father (Matthew Chamberlain) and older brother, Angus (Eli Kent). Angus sees his father favoring his little brother and he plays the cruelest of "pranks" on him. Henry finds his pet sheep to have been slaughtered, and immediately after that, he gets word that his father has just been killed in an accident. Ultimately, as one would imagine, this leads to Henry developing a horrible and somewhat irrational fear of sheep. Fifteen years later, we find a grown up Henry (Nathan Meister) returning home to sell his share of the family farm to Angus (Peter Feeney).
We, the audience soon learn that Angus has a side project, where he is creating genetically mutated sheep, making them go full-carnivore for... reasons. What's more is that their bites can transform their victims into, well, weresheep. The film gets going when a mutant lamb is accidentally released by two environmentalists named Grant (Oliver Driver) and Experience (Danielle Mason). It's not long before the mutant lamb finds the herd, gives its first bite, and things get chaotic. Can Henry, his friend, Tucker (Tammy Davis) and the others stop the madness before New Zealand gets taken over by carnivorous mutant sheep?
There does seem to be some variety in horror/comedy as much as there's a variety in individual horror. For example, this and 'Slither' both make for funny looks at gross-out/body horror, but there are plenty out there that cover things like serial killers, hauntings, etc. This is another one for those who don't mind some good body horror, but I might also suggest that one should be just a little desensitized when it comes to some of the humor this has. I'll also say that this isn't really laugh out loud hilarious, but it does offer a lot of fun, awkward giggles. As I said, I call it a guilty pleasure. But it's a guilty pleasure I can still say is good for what it is. This isn't like watching a "so bad it's good" movie, it's just kind of messed up.
So, in the end, I might not recommend this to just anyone. But I will say that if you can appreciate New Zealand's dry comedy blended with some comedy that doesn't really have many limits to it, this might be worth checking out. On the other hand, this is something I could definitely see someone finding to be far too off-the-wall for their taste. In any case, you get a lot of "weird" with this one. But I'll be honest about something - that bit of the climax when things are just about to conclude will probably make anyone with even a slightly low-brow about their comedy a good, genuine laugh. If nothing else, the build up is worth it.
I never realized until I saw this movie how much James Gunn has actually worked on in the past. Before he really put himself on the map with 'Guardians of the Galaxy'; his name becoming synonymous with the series, he's credited as screenwriter for 2004's 'Dawn of the Dead', to a lesser extent, 2002's 'Scooby-Doo', and he even had a hand in 'Thir13en Ghosts'. 'Slither' here, however, is pretty much his breakout project, both writing and directing for a horror comedy that really likes to play the gross-out card. It does, however, admittedly do its job of being a modern B movie very well.
It all starts when a meteorite crash-lands nearby the town of Wheesly, South Carolina. From the meteorite springs an alien parasite, which heads into town, finds the wealthy Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) and pretty much takes him over. His changes in behaviour and appearance gets his wife, Starla (Elizabeth Banks) suspicious, leading to an eventual fight that bring in the police. As the cops manage to rescue her, Grant heads off to check on his super grotesque nesting situation, involving poor Brenda (Brenda James) who Grant's parasite uses for breeding. This eventually leads to those slug-like creatures, who try to take over the town like an extraterrestrial plague.
A posse is soon formed, led by Police Chief, Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), helped by Starla, who may be the only one who can talk to Grant without consequence. Soon, they include Mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) and lone teen, Kylie Strutemyer (Tania Saulnier); the girl in the unfortunate bathtub situation on the movie poster. As they attempt to hunt Grant down in order to put a stop to things, they must evade both parasitic slugs, and the zombified people these slugs have taken control of. All the while, there's plenty of comedy to keep us going, but so much of it is gross out material that this is a horror comedy that I'm kind of "meh" about.
All things considered, I think the biggest problem is that this kind of thing has been done in the past. Alien parasite falls to Earth, alien takes over bodies, and there's some kind of breeding process going on. Another thing this one loses major points for is how the breeding works. It involves a whole lot of meat, and a lot of this meat comes from dogs, and I'm totally one of those people who absolutely hate a dog death in a movie (at least unless there's a John Wick character ready to spring into action because of it). But with my personal taste aside, there's still plenty to give this credit for.
To begin with, I have to give Gunn some slack, this being the first major film he both wrote and directed. This was the first thing he worked on that was his, and to begin with a modern B movie was definitely a solid choice for a blossoming filmmaker. The other thing he manages to do here is gross-out successfully with some of the body horror in this. It's not my favourite thing, but I can't deny that if done right and makes me go "ugh, nasty", I have to admit that it's doing its job. It's a lot like a movie that has me flinch at torture porn - the effect is there, which is what they're going for, but I'm not the biggest fan of it. SOME of it is pretty dated CG, but still, this was 2006, so pre MCU CG and generally forgivable.
I think I can recommend this as a fun B movie as long as you're a person who gets a kick out of body horror and gross out humour. Some of the names attached to this will also be enough to draw some people in, like Fillion for us fifty-million 'Firefly' fans, and Michael Rooker under Gunn's direction before he became out favourite MCU father figure. It's another film I can give plenty of credit to for what it is, but I don't know that I'll be rushing to check it out again anytime soon. It gave Gunn a nice boost, but as far as I'm concerned, nothing he makes will ever top his 'Guardians' movies.
Due to some of the subject matter within this particular slice of horror, let the record show that I'm reviewing this on its merits of being a horror movie as opposed to the story within. In short, it tackles 1879 America and how some people may have seen indigenous tribes back then. Up here in Canada, this is a very touchy subject right now, and I'm honestly hesitant to even review this. But I will do my best, as I do feel like the film has a somewhat appropriate message to convey - basically "the monster here isn't who the characters think".
The film opens one night when a family of settlers is violently taken in the night by an unknown source. This is where their fellow pioneers immediately suspect the surrounding tribes, and they form a posse to set out and find the missing family. Among them, Irish immigrant, Fergus Coffey (Karl Geary), hardened fighters, John Clay (Clancy Brown) and William Parcher (William Mapother), naive teen who keeps screwing up, Dobie Spacks (Galen Hutchison) and former slave, Walnut Callaghan (Sean Patrick Thomas) and if I missed anyone, my bad, but sometimes I rely on Wiki for reminders and it just plain doesn't list any character names. But Doug Hutchison is also a part of this as Henry Victor , and he's just as likable as always (the character you really wanna punch in the nose).
As the posse sets out, they have to endure certain aspects such as the weather and the threat of the surrounding tribes. However, as the film unfolds, they soon learn that the indigenous people of the area are not what is to be feared so much as the monsters they have dubbed "the Burrowers" (not to be confused with "the Borrowers"). These creatures cut their victims and drug them with a paralyzing toxin. Then, the victim gets buried alive and consumed after decomposition has begun. I have to say, kudos to the film for creating such a terrifying creature, and providing the viewing audience with something truly disturbing. The idea of total paralysis followed by what it probably a torturous death is really disturbing, and the last time I saw something close to this was probably 'Serpent and the Rainbow'; also involving a paralyizing drug and getting buried alive.
Setting certain things about this movie aside, they do a pretty good job here with the horror. I do have to give them credit for giving us a period piece horror movie as well - something I think the film industry lacks in a very big way. I mean, think about how much scarier horror can be when you take away something like what modern health care can help with. Things get much more visceral, and the disturbance of it all can build up much more if the victim can't do something we take for granted today like, say, call an ambulance. I further enjoyed the creature design of these burrowers - sort of reminiscent of a small version of the Rancor from 'Return of the Jedi' mixed with a Licker from 'Resident Evil'. It's just plain monstrous and intimidating and you don't wanna run into one.
So given some of the subject matter involved in this one, I do have a hard time just telling certain horror fan to check it out. I think for the most part, it was pretty cool, but there could be some stuff here that has since been dated. I do think the underlying message here is still a good one in that there is more to fear than something we might not understand, and we often use our judgment in some pretty stupid ways. We're also pretty gullible - it takes a long time for these guys to accept that actual monstrous creatures are what they should be worried about. I think that this has the potential to be watched the right way, but I also think that right now this could be a very touchy one for my fellow Canadians, and to skip it would be perfectly fine. I'd probably sooner recommend something a little more educational at this point. But if you feel so inclined, this can be found on Amazon.
Originally, this was supposed to be a Spanish film called 'Sexy Killer'. However, having trouble finding it, I changed things up to this Argentinian (Spanish language) flick, found easily on good old Shudder, as I still wanted to do International horror at least once this month. After all, after seeing a movie like 'Cabin in the Woods', a horror fan does get curious as to what different nationalities have to offer.
The plot here is pretty straightforward. Taking place in a funeral home (surprise), we focus on a dysfunctional family of three; undertaker, Bernardo (Luis Machín), his wife, Estela (Celeste Gerez) and her daughter, but his stepdaughter, Irina (Camila Vaccarini). The family is haunted, and this s something that's just accepted, and I sort of admire that. It's so typical for American ghost movies to need that scepticism - while one or two people know things are happening, others know there must be a logical explanation, dubbing the believers crazy and whatnot. This is simply "hey, we live in a funeral home, so it's haunted".
Bernardo and Irina have a belief that the house is haunted by an entity that will one day allow them to see and communicate with their loved ones - particularly Irina's real father, who both Bernardo and Estela claim to have been a horrible person in life. Meanwhile, Bernardo's own father comes into question, as he had a history of dabbling in the occult, and Estela believes he may be a big part of this haunting. But there's more to the spirits Bernardo communicates with as well, like perhaps a former partner he once had an affair with. Soon, a psychic named Ramona (Susana Varela) is hired to cleanse the house, but as events unfold, they get a bit more convoluted and if I'm being 100% honest, a bit confusing to the point of taking you out of things.
So forgive me for a bit of a half-assed review, but I'm not sure I totally understood everything that went on with this film. It seems the kind of thing that might gather some kind of cult following, but I think this one's a bit lost on me - at least as far as story and characters go (no one is particularly likable here). That said, this does have a few things that help it along as a supernatural horror movie. The atmosphere actually works really well, and things are sort of ever-creepy here. There aren't really any cheap jump scares to speak of, and the film does a god job at showing us just enough of these entities and how a frightened family interacts with them. One scene that stands out is a spirit in Irina's room that is filmed in such a way that suggests "I'm here, but I'm not gonna let you see me", and it's downright eerie.
So I guess as an international horror film, this holds its own pretty well, and it's decent for a creepy night in, hiding under your covers. It's not gonna make you lose sleep, but there is something unsettling enough about it that it works. For me, it only works up to a certain point though, and when it was all over, it really did turn into a "what the hell did I just watch?" situation. I think this is another case of me just not quite getting it though, so I'll give the movie points for its overall feel, but not a whole lot else. Parts of this felt pretty typical to me, but some didn't, and the bottom line is I can't formulate a very good opinion on this one. So I'll give it a pass, at least for some of the best haunting atmosphere I've seen in a while.
Sometimes when I go digging for some of that underground horror, I can come across something decent. There's a certain aspect to low-budget horror that can make things creepier, and if done up right, can be quite effective proving that often, with horror, less is more. But the thing is, there needs to be a good dose of originality to them. 'Friday the 13th', for example, copies from 'Halloween'. But in that first film, the killer reveal still came as a big surprise. 'The Violent Kind' is a combination of rip offs, taking 'Evil Dead' and various home invasion movies and making something that just plain does not suck a horror fan in.
I got this title from a list of supposedly good horror movies we may not have heard of, so I gave it a shot. What I got, however, was a bit more in the realm of a high school drama project if the teacher said "you're allowed to make it a hard-R". And what can I say? This is going to be a short one, and a lot of that is admittedly my complete lack of interest I was left with. Things start off with a biker beat-down, just to ensure we know what kind of movie we're in for. We meet Cody (Cory Knauf), Q (Bret Roberts) and Elroy (Nick Tagas); second-gen bikers who head to a remote cabin for Cody's mother's (Samantha Stone - a name I might have wrong, so feel free to correct) birthday. They are joined by Shade (Taylor Cole); Q's girlfriend and Cody's cousin and... the cousin relationship we see here does feel a touch 'Game of Thrones'-ish, but it's hinted at more than established and therefore ultimately confusing.
Upon reaching the party, they run into Cody's ex, Michelle (Tiffany Shepis) and her sister, Megan (Christina McDowell), who is actually into Cody. So, everyone leaves the party, eventually leaving Cody, Q, Elroy, Shade and Megan alone while her sister takes off. Things go off the rails when Michelle comes back all messed up and seemingly possessed. These new problems eventually lead to the home invasion aspect, involving three dangerous characters named Vernon (Joe Egender), Jazz (Joseph McKelheer) and Murderball (Samuel Child). They are seeking out Michelle and whatever is possessing her, but everyone denies knowing her location. Anyway, the movie takes a super weird turn here and when it's all said and done, it is a bit of a "what the hell did I just watch?" kind of flick.
That's basically all there is to it, and I get the feeling this might have a cult following that I don't fully understand. But quite honestly, even with scenes meant to make you cringe or turn away, I just plain wasn't affected by any of it and the biggest emotion it got from me was annoyance. It's full of tropes, right along with a girl going out into the darkness asking stupid questions like "is anyone there?" The three big villains are so incredibly irritating to me. Once they hit the scene, everything feels like it's trying way, way too hard to pay tribute to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. They even have two psycho women with them named Trixie (Mackenzie Firgens) and... *cringe*... Pussywagon (Ilea Alfaro), and I sincerely didn't get some of the choices they went with here.
So, just to make sure this review remains the short one I said it would be, I'll keep it simple. 'Evil Dead' is a classic, there is a decent selection of home invasion movies to pick from that are better, and this is not worth your time. I will give kudos to the filmmakers for managing to get it out there and reaching a section of that underground horror audience as newcomers, because that's a difficult one to accomplish. But I can say with full confidence that there is far better, similar material out there. There was nothing for me here at all, really.
Also entitled 'Wasting Away', 'Aaah! Zombies!!' is one example of a modern day zombie flick that manages to bring something relatively original to the table. Unlike most zombie material out there, this one features the story from the perspective of the zombie; a lot like 'Warm Bodies', which may be remembered more fondly, but was released six years after this. The problem here is that this one still floats incredibly low under the radar, largely due to a low-budget look, and complete lack of names. The big one here is probably Richard Riehle, who you're bound to recognize from something.
Anyway, that's not to discredit this film in any way. In all seriousness, I quite like this. Here we have a horror comedy that shows creativity with the zombie genre. It doesn't just do this plot-wise, but aesthetically too. While we see things from the zombie perspective, they are in colour, but anything from anyone else's perspective is black and white. You can tell that the filmmakers had a lot of fun with this. The only real problem is that some of the dialogue is a bit lame when it's trying to be funny, and this is admittedly a very silly zombie movie with nothing much to take seriously out of it. Even 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Zombieland' have their glimpses of tragedy. This is obviously much more played for laughs in its execution, and there's nothing wrong with that, but zombie fans might not get as much a kick out of it as I do.
The film opens as we learn about a military experiment gone wrong when it turns a soldier into a zombie instead of the "super soldier" he was supposed to turn into. The remainder of the "super soldier serum" (by the way, this is a few years before 'Captain America', so not entirely a rip-off) is taken away to be disposed of, but the transport truck gets into an accident, and a barrel of the substance rolls into the back of a bowling alley. There's a bit of a spill that miraculously contaminates a few boxes of ice cream, which one of the employees, Tim (Michael Grant Terry), shares with three friends; Mike (Matthew Davis), Vanessa (Julianna Robinson) and Cindy (Betsy Beutler), who he has a thing for. Of course, this turns them all into zombies, but they actually have no idea.
As things begin to unfold, strange and unexplainable things keep happening to them. In looking for answers, they run into Nick (Colby French); a military private who seems to understand what's going on. He suggests that they are all becoming super soldiers while the rest of the world is "infected" with some sort of virus that makes them speed up. Meanwhile each of the friends have their own concerns and try to tackle them in their own ways, all while unknowingly being zombies. The idea that they all still think everything else is screwed up while they remain normal is an interesting thought - like what if that brain is still human but the zombie can't help its behaviour? It adds an extra layer to the dread of becoming a zombie.
Eventually the film largely becomes about Nick trying to take down the ones responsible for the experiment in the first place; Colonel South (Richard Riehle) and Dr. Richter (Jack Orend) while the friends provide the comedy relief as they keep attempting every day things while trying to figure out what's going on around them. Perhaps most peculiar is one of the characters being contacted for a job interview - so yeah, things definitely do get super weird, and one might even argue kinda stupid. But I definitely do enjoy this whole idea of not being aware - it may or may not be a nod to 'The Others'.
Some of the rules here can get a little bit cloudy too. The way the serum works makes them look like zombies to the straight and narrow, but for whatever reason, drunks can understand them. It's all very scientific, you see. That said, I have to admit, I find that to be a pretty interesting new rule for the zombie-verse. Again, one might see it as stupid, but you've got to admit that it's creative, and you probably haven't seen it before. And that, to me, is exactly what this movie offers - it's something you haven't seen before or, really, since. 'Warm Bodies' is fairly close, but not quite the same. It's unfortunate how low this floats under the radar though, because, while it's not the best zombie movie out there, it's a neat little treat for any underground horror/comedy fan.
Second in-line for the fake 'Grindhouse' trailers to be made into an actual movie is 'Hobo with a Shotgun'. The trailer was apparently only seen in some Canadian releases of 'Grindhouse', and the actual film looks quite a bit different than what is shown in the trailer. Although the plot is essentially the same, originally, the hobo was portrayed by David Brunt. Here, it's Rutger Hauer who, in my opinion, is what really makes this movie.
An unnamed hobo (Hauer) enters the ironically named Hope Town; a city overrun with unspeakable acts of crime, headed by a crime lord known as "The Drake" (Brian Downey) who watches over things. In the meantime, the hobo minds his business, wanting to buy a lawnmower in order to start his own business and make a bit of extra cash. However, as a hobo, this guys ends up seeing how bad things really get, often becoming victimized, himself. Such acts include humiliating desperate homeless people on camera for money, which is something he eventually succumbs to participating in.
One day, the hobo sneaks a peek at the underground community, and it's pretty reminiscent of the Foot headquarters in '91s 'Ninja Turtles' - a bunch of punk kids, an arcade - but here, things are just a bit more R-rated. Here, the Drakes two sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) along with a few henchmen take delight in torturing and killing the homeless. This is where our hobo hero finally has enough, upon watching the sexual harassment of a prostitute named Abby. He knocks out and drags Slick to the police department, but learns how corrupt they are as well. His final straw results in him grabbing a shotgun and dishing out some vigilante justice. His primary targets - The Drake and his two sons.
Being that this is a Grindhouse movie, one should probably expect to see some pretty messed up shit. But being a Canadian Grindhouse movie, one should probably expect the scales to tip into even more messed up. For reference, see a handful of our terrifying PSAs, available on YouTube. We're super friendly and polite, but we're also a little bit looser about things around here, eh. Anyway, I might suggest that of the Grindhouse movies in the series, this one probably is the most disturbing. Luckily, it's filled with some really weird stuff too, so it reminds us that it's not something to be taken seriously at all. However to illustrate some of the brutal content here, let's just say that absolutely no one is safe in this movie. This one is definitely for the more hardcore at heart.
I have to imagine that the purpose of 'Hobo with a Shotgun' was to sort of reveal just how bad some of these old Grindhouse movies could actually get. While all of them have a good amount of gore, language, gore, sexuality and gore, this one also plays with the mind a little bit more than the others. Over the top or not, there's something truly psychologically disturbing about this one. You can laugh some of it off, but if any of these were an actual snuff film, it would probably be this one. Bascially, just make sure you have your wits about you when you venture into this one. It's not quite as "fun" as any of the others, although there are still elements of comedy.
Of the Grindhouse collection, this might be the one I'd openly recommend the least. It's the only one I walked away from with a big "WTF" reaction as opposed to something more positive. None of the other Grindhouse movies made me feel particularly uncomfortable about what I was watching, but this actually did. Despite a few funny moments, it does get cringeworthy with some of its contents, and not in a "lame joke" kind of way. I suppose that's the point, but it does have that air of torture porn about it that I've never been a big fan of. I can't say it was necessarily bad, as it's quite honestly supposed to be to some degree. At the very least, I can respect the fact that it accomplishes what it sets out to do.
This one has been on my to-see list for a while now, so I was pretty excited to finally get into it after so long. One part of me expected the same old typical ghost story, but another part of me was focused on the imagery along with the concept. It seemed to be a film meant to make one scared of the dark again. I can't say it succeeded in that for me, but I also can't deny that I still enjoyed it.
A young woman named Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is called to her half-brother, Martin's (Gabriel Bateman) school due to him constantly falling asleep in class. His lack of sleep is due to his and Rebecca's shared mother, Sophie (Maria Bello), who stays awake talking to someone invisible; her friend; resident ghoul, Diana (Alicia Vela-Bailey). Unlike the way things like this would normally go down, Martin talks to Rebecca about Diana, which causes a flood of horrible memories from Rebecca's childhood to come back. Evidently, she has been in his shoes. All the while, they are aided by Rebecca's boyfriend, Bret (Alexander DiPersia) who, thankfully, instead of brushing the half-siblings off as nuts, supports and helps them through this.
As Rebecca digs deeper into research on Diana, she soon uncovers a dark history, and a tie to her mother that not only explains her behavior, but shines a light on who the spirit haunting them really is. This Diana character comes as a sort of tormentor for this particular family, taking out anyone who may be in the way. She's fairly reminiscent of Samara from 'The Ring' in that she not only looks fairly similar (a little more ghouled up) but also has the ability to physically harm the living. Interestingly enough, there's a scene where Sophie says that Diana isn't a ghost - however, at the same time, she can't explain what she is. She's not a demon, per se, either. Just a strange entity who likes to scratch things.
Although it doesn't come without a few horror cliches, and I wouldn't call it perfect, I did have a lot of fun with it. Running at only an hour and twenty minutes, this manages to be a sort of campfire ghost story brought to life on screen. And that's honestly what I did enjoy about it - its simplicity. The filmmakers are here to tell a quick ghost story, and avoid certain stereotypes through role reversal. The Mom is the one talking to imaginary friends as opposed to the kid. The boyfriend listens to his partner and helps instead of thinking she's just out of her mind. You've got to appreciate details like that, because that simple move makes things new and different to some extent.
Personally, I thought it was fun, and I didn't feel like it was anything that was taking itself seriously. Like I said, this is a campfire story come to life. It's not without a fair share of decent scares, but it's another one that uses its atmosphere to increase the tension, and that's something I always enjoy. Nothing gets cranked to eleven, mind you, but it's a fun ride with a somewhat interesting ending to say the least. If you're on the lookout for a good, quick scare, I could recommend this. It's haunting, twisted, creepy, performances are decent, and it doesn't get too deep with things. It's a funhouse ride with some disturbing imagery and a nasty ghoul who just might make you afraid of the dark one more time.
For the final movie of this second "Ghost Month" installment, I thought I'd take a look at a Spanish film, brought to us from executive producer Guillermo del Toro. There are many avenues in horror I haven't explored yet, and Spanish horror is most definitely something I've been meaning to delve a little more into. While I don't consider the film to be a total original, it's still quite well done, and does a good job of blending very different types of horror into one movie.
Thirty years after an orphanage adopts Laura (Belén Rueda), she returns with her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and young son, Simón (Roger Príncep). Now closed, Laura plans to reopen it as a facility for disabled children. While settling in, Simón says that he has befriended a boy named Tomás (Óscar Casas); a boy who evidently wanders around wearing a sack mask. We later learn that Tomás was a kid who was facially deformed, taunted by other kids, and ended up drowning as a result of their shenanigans. This, to any real horror fan, sounds all too familiar, as Jason Voorhees once met the same fate. You might as well just say "he died in a car crash" as far as unoriginality, but I digress. Thankfully, this little nitpick didn't ruin things for me.
Simón soon teaches his mother a game, following clues around the house. Upon winning the game, your wish is granted. It is during this that Simón gets into a fight with his mother after apparently learning from Tomás that he was adopted, and Laura wasn't his real mother. Eventually, during a party to celebrate the opening of the new facility, Simón goes missing. As the months pass, and Carlos loses hope that their son is still alive, Laura does whatever she can to find her missing son, even if it includes breaking the boundaries of reality and playing a game with Tomás and the rest of Simón's imaginary friends to find him.
When all considered this doesn't entirely feel typical of a ghost/haunting movie, but one can't deny how much it seems to borrow from, either. Aside from the 'Friday the 13th' pull, I'd also throw in dashes of material from movies like 'The Others' and even perhaps a touch of 'Trick 'r Treat' considering Tomás' look being very reminiscent of Sam's. However, being released the same year, that's perhaps a bit of a stretch. Perhaps most interesting of all is that it dabbles in 'Peter Pan' (knowingly) and the concept of the Lost Boys. It all comes together in the end to make for a pretty solid movie, despite a few weak points in the beginning. Much like with 'The Others', there's definitely a creepiness to it, but it's not entirely on the horror side of things - it just has horror elements.
Perhaps most impressive to me here, however, were the performances. It's not often you can cast a child actor and have them pull off something kind of amazing. Roger Príncep does a great job here as Simón, especially for being around 8 or 9 years old at the time of filming. He carries a lot of personality, and expresses himself very well. I like that he's not afraid of these ghosts, but at the same time, they don't give him any sort of creepy edge. He's just a kid convinced he's hanging out with other kids, and does a much more casual job of it than say, Zachary David Cope in 'Stir of Echoes'. I was actually quite impressed, and have learned that he has been nominated for various awards for this role.
While little Roger steels the show here, Belén Rueda certainly holds her own as well. She plays the ever-caring mother type, and wants her kid to be happy but safe all at once. However, she's never overbearing while he's still in the picture, and when he disappears, she suddenly turns into a lioness on the lookout for her missing kid, never willing to give up, but never completely breaking down in the process. She didn't spray tears quite as much as say, Joyce Byers in Season 1 of 'Stranger Things', and she's willing to do whatever it takes, even if it means getting into the supernatural as an act of desperation. It may not be a film that's altogether mind-blowing or even amazing, but it certainly holds its own and has a very well thought out ending, in my opinion. It's strangely haunting but charming all at once, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't actually really enjoy it despite any flaws.
Here's another entry into the long list of late 90s/early 2000s ghost movies that fell under the radar. I find that if I bring it up in conversation, not many people are familiar with it. This is one I tend to find a little more interesting than most in its overall execution, though. The fact of the matter is that this is much more of a mystery than a movie featuring a terrifying spirit. Yes, there's a haunting situation in this, but it's less about the scares and more about unravelling the secrets of a neighborhood.
A phone lineman named Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) lives in Chicago with his newly pregnant wife, Maggie (Kathryn Erbe) and son, Jake (Zachary David Cope). It's evident from the get-go that Jake has the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead. Instead of being freaked out by it, like in 'Sixth Sense', things run almost a little too smoothly for this kid. Jake reacts more like he's talking to an imaginary friend than a spirit. Anyway, Tom finds him talking to an unseen person while in his bath, but doesn't think much of it and goes about his evening, attending a neighboring party with Maggie while keeping a monitor on hand in order to keep check on Jake. It is here at this party that Tom challenges Maggie's sister, Lisa (Illeana Douglas) to hypnotize him.
The hypnosis is a complete success, but Lisa manages to implant the idea that Tom's mind will now be an open door to what he can't comprehend. Soon, Tom begins to experience hallucinations that refer to a girl named Samantha Kozac (Jennifer Morrison), who has been missing for six months. As one strange experience occurs after another, and Tom seemingly begins to lose his grip on reality, he stumbles down a rabbit hole having to do with a missing girl he had never heard of before - at least not until his son started talking to her. As he quite literally digs for answers, he manages to uncover certain truths about Samantha that are downright disturbing, and even hard to watch.
This is another one of those films I meet pretty much in the middle. On one hand, I can't help but admire the idea that hypnosis gone wrong is what leads Tom down this crazy path of seeing ghosts, and as the mystery unravels, it does carry a certain intensity with it. I'm also a fan of the ghost being very much in the background, much like in 'What Lies Beneath'. That said, in both cases, the film is much more about figuring out what happened to the dead rather than the more popular spookhouse movies of this day and age. I could definitely see an audience trying these movies out and not being fans simply because not a lot really happens. Just the odd, mild scare here and there.
The similarities between this and 'What Lies Beneath' are actually many. They both involve delving into the cause of a mysterious death, both involve the idea of a spouse losing their minds, both essentially ghost movies, both even involve sex in the storyline in some uncomfortable way. The fact that these and many others came out around the same time like them sort of explains why some of these have been swept under the rug a little. You could Google a list of ghost movies, but if you look in the range of around '97-'02, there seem to be quite a few familiar but forgotten titles. This is just one of those titles, and it's pretty decent. But once again, one might get much more of a thrill with something a little more fresh.