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The Pact (2012)
Suspenseful and Excellent
This is a beautifully and thoughtfully made horror/thriller that manages to sustain the creep factor throughout. I won't be spoiling anything by telling you that it's a supernatural tale. This establishes itself quite early on in the piece which I initially found disappointing. I'm partial to those slow burn movies that leave you wondering if there is a supernatural element going on at all. The fact this film introduces this early on certainly does not take away from chill factor and manages to maintain a strong sense of mystery which adds to the unsettling nature of the story.
You get to establish a great empathy for the main character, Annie, thanks largely to the great performance of Caity Lotz while she tries to figure out what the hell is going in her childhood home after her mother has passed away and why her sister has disappeared. The home and setting is a character in itself. A very small, drab home with 60's/70's decor becomes an incredibly creepy setting, even with the bright San Pedro sun shining outside which filters into the home in a dark golden glow as you get to explore every inch of it during the film. Knowing that Annie and her sister's childhood was traumatic at the hands of their mother adds to the malevolent personality of the house. The atmosphere of this film reminds me a little of Absentia, another great film you should check out.
There were moments where my heart jumped without the use of the clichéd, annoying jump scare which seems to be popular these days. A sense of dread builds and builds to a very satisfying climax. The less you know about this going in, the better. Check it out, it's well worth it.
The Last Broadcast (1998)
It could have been so beautiful...
OK, so let me start by saying that, for me, The Blair Witch Project is the greatest horror film I've seen since it's release back in 1999. I've seen a lot of great horror since then but nothing has surpassed it.
The Jersey Devil is an excellent premise as most of us have heard of this unsettling legend.
They use the documentary style very well to cover the story of the cult cable show creators and their sound guy murdered in the woods, supposedly by the psychic they take along, Jim Suerd, while filming a story on the Jersey Devil. The documentary maker sets out to prove the innocence of Jim, who has since mysteriously died in his prison cell from unknown causes. Using the method of interviews with police and others involved in the case, retracing the steps of the crew and viewing the footage the crew themselves took on their first fateful night in the Pine Barrens, the film maker attempts to get an understanding of exactly what happened.
The found footage of their adventure into the woods doesn't scare outright but it sets a tone that slowly creeps in and effectively plants the seeds of dread and fear combined with the interviews and back stories. What happens after this moment is completely speculation to the authorities. Jim is the only survivor and is the one to report the others as missing the following day. Finding DNA matching blood on his jacket that is carelessly flung on his bedroom floor for anyone to discover incriminates him. The fact that he's been on a primitive online chat room during most of the night doesn't even save his bacon when the police find a 45 minute gap in his posts that would give him enough time to commit the carnage.
The fact that I felt very unsettled by this stage without actually seeing anything is a testament to how well they executed this up to this point. Exactly what happened to these guys? You get a glimpse of the dead bodies through police photos of Locus (a co-host of the show) and Rein (the sound guy) which is adequately horrific. The main host, Steven, is missing but his hat lying on the forest floor along with copious amounts of blood is found.
The next part of the film had me brimming with excitement that perhaps, just perhaps, this film may be the one that outshines TBWP. The documentary filmmaker receives an anonymous package in the post with crumpled up VHS tape, damaged to the point where it's impossible for him to view it. Enter Michelle, a data retrieval expert, who is put to task to slowly reconstruct the damaged tape, some of which is still intact and other parts are severely damaged and she uses her expertise to "guide" the computer to recreate the images in the mangled tape.
This next segment of the film had me on the edge of my seat. You get view some footage of Locus and Rein yelling out to Steve in the dark woods after he's gone missing. They happen upon the bloody pool of what is left of Steve and are attacked by something, the initial fear in their faces insinuating something beyond human recognition. Now, this is where I love the found footage genre. The footage is very shaky, grainy and you can't quite see what's going on, which adds to the effect. Jim is exonerated from guilt, he would have been online at that time posting on the net.
Meanwhile, Michelle seems to have found a piece of tape where a different perspective has been filmed during this incident and the face of "another" is slowly being reconstructed. This is where it gets really good. We keep revisiting Michelle on her quest to find the face of the killer and the image is slowly progressing into something that will become recognizable. Are we actually going to see the Jersey Devil?
By this stage I'm certain that this is the film that has finally surpassed TBWP. The final stages of her reconstruction of this face are slowly building up to a pinnacle... what am I about to see?
Surely to Christ no? My worst fears are confirmed. The face turns out to be the documentary film maker who proceeds to kill Michelle in plastic. The film descends into a sharp downward spiral from that moment on. All that build about "the Jersey Devil may really be out there" just gets quashed in a matter of seconds. In comparison, that documentary film maker is about as scary as Mary Poppins.
Not only that, all of a sudden, the found footage/documentary genre is thrown out the window and the "murderer" is being filmed in a conventional format in the woods with the dead body of Michelle at his feet. THE END. WTF?!
How could you destroy such a perfect build up with that pathetic dribble? I'm sure they're scratching their own heads now and wishing they could turn back the clock.
This brings me back to the TBWP. You cannot fault the execution and the ending. We still to this day can use our own imagination as to what happened to Josh, Heather and Mike. Was it the Blair Witch?, was it Rustin Parr?, was it a random inbred psycho?
The ending of The Last Broadcast could have had so many other infinitely better options than one they chose. You could have at least half shown the face to be some sort of Jersey Devil looking creature or you could have left it up in the air as to what it was and fed the mystery. Jesus, I don't know, anything but that ending!
This would have been a perfect 10/10 for me. The ending slashed it back to 6/10.
Lovely Molly (2011)
We need more modern horror films like this (spoilers within)
What a refreshing change it is to see a modern horror film like this one. Although it's probably more leaning towards psychological thriller than outright horror. The director has taken the tried and tested methods of previous eras and moved them into current times. "Lovely" Molly is newly wed and due to financial constraints is forced to move into her childhood home with her hubby while they make ends meet.
We gradually start to realise that Molly has recently had a stint in a psychiatric hospital due to a complete mental breakdown brought on by dark childhood memories exacerbated by a heroin habit. Her sister, Hannah, shares her disturbing secret. Moving back to her childhood home turns out the be the worst move she could have made. The odd happenings start off subtly with the security alarm system going off in the night and no signs of forced entry and eventually manifest into footsteps, voices and an incredibly creepy male voice singing an almost nursery rhyme type tune "Lovely Molly". These later occurrences are only heard by Molly who eventually starts to "see" this presence in the house.
It's established that her deceased father abused both Molly and her sister. Could this dark force be her father coming back to haunt her? Exploring this proposition is where the film shines. Her husband is often absent due to work commitments and finds himself coming home to Molly in various states of psychosis, eventually finding blatantly left evidence of Molly using drugs once again. He finds dealing with her behaviour increasingly difficult and Hannah intervenes to try and help, adamant that she can fix Molly's problem without having to send her back to the institution.
We get to live through Molly's apparitions as they grow more intense and outright frightening. The film plays with the idea that this may all be in Molly's mind. She seems to become "possessed" by this being at times which causes her to commit violent acts, eventually murder. The pinnacle is when Molly staggers outside naked into the arms of a demon with a horse like head that you cant just make out in the cold night fog (a very memorable scary moment). At this stage, you're still not sure if this is Molly's psychosis.
The film finally cuts to Hannah visiting the vacated house alone after all the goings on. She finds a family photo album on the floor and flicks through, shocked to find all the pictures of their father have cut outs of a horses head in place of his face. She's then drawn to a sound coming from the closet (established as Molly's safe haven during their childhood abuse). She opens the door and is drawn to something in there, holding her hand out. The film ends. Was all this really happening to Molly? Was it her father that came back to possess her? Was this demon figure responsible for her father's behaviour too?
Whether you find definitive answers to these questions or not the journey taken is up there with the great psychological horror classics in my book.
Yo, también (2009)
Found this on DVD in my local store (SPOILERS WITHIN)
I found the premise interesting in the local store and bought it. What a fantastically realised film. It says so much about human relationships in general and highlights the fact that there's no such thing as the perfect, socially acceptable relationship.
Society's idea of what is acceptable is challenged beautifully, particularly with the dance partners who find love and are forced apart by a concerned parent, although they are technically adults, only to find an ally in the main character and his friend showing them the technicalities of safe sex instead of turning them in to the authorities. The female dancer's resolute explanation that her partner was "my soul" touched me in a very powerful, unexpected way and I can't stop thinking about it.
The main protagonist was exceptional in his role and I hope to see him again in more films in the future. Same goes for the female lead.
I found myself crying a lot and quite emotionally awakened while watching this wonderful film. I was disappointed that the extra features didn't have English subtitles! Very highly recommended.
Reflections of Evil (2002)
I'm not going to attempt to explain the plot. Plot is really irrelevant when describing this film. It's an experience, an inexplicable dark feeling just below the surface of consciousness. The thoughts and actions of the main protagonist, although on the surface seem odd, are strangely logical and coherent in the bizarre environment in which he inhabits. The streets are recognisable as L.A. but light, sounds and characters he comes into contact with are surreal. It's a perpetual state of dusk all the time and something sinister is brewing beneath the surface. The main character's strange idiosyncratic behaviour somehow fits in with his environment and as a result seems normal, like the strange happenings in a dream that seem perfectly logical at the time until you wake up and realise their incongruity.
I'm not sure exactly the message or meaning Damon Packard is trying to communicate and I don't really care. All I know is, I dig it...
Very Small Business (2008)
I have to say that this undiscovered gem of a comedy is pretty much flawless throughout all 6 episodes. It's almost an Australian "Fawlty Towers" in that it probably shouldn't get a second season even though I'd be really keen to see one.
Don Angel and Ray Leonard Leonard are the perfect polar opposite match. A beautiful combination of sleazy, inept entrepreneur and jaded, world weary, intelligent but defeated writer makes for a perfect match in this exceptionally well written, but more so, brilliantly performed piece of comedy. Kim Gyngell and Wayne Hope shine, together with the supporting roles, with not a performance out of place.
I own this on DVD, watch it regularly, and quotes from it have become part of the regular banter/vocabulary in our household. Selfishly, I like the idea of not many people discovering this as it makes it all the more special. For those few of you in the world who happen upon this comment, do yourself a favour, grab a copy, sit back and watch how it's meant to be done.
Move over Kubrick
I'm so obsessed with this film, I've been watching it in awe every week for the past few weeks. To me, it's like listening to a great piece of music, getting better with each viewing. It's such a beautiful film to watch with every scene carefully constructed, every set design(some in Todd Haynes parent's home!)intriguing and breathtakingly crafted with the colours and lighting eerily muted. Everything in Carol's world is beautiful but hides an underlying menace, an obvious metaphor for her internal turmoil.
The premise is Carol develops a severe allergic reaction to her environment, suddenly becoming extremely sensitive to fumes and smells from everyday suburban/city living. Of course, if you take it that literally, you're missing the point. This is more an exploration into the human condition and the artificial happiness we perpetuate in our seemingly unachievable quest for perfection via material possessions. The opening sequence includes one of the most soul destroying and familiar scenarios (coming from a fellow female) that I have witnessed with the supposed 'love making' scene with her husband, especially the 'patting on the back' scene as he fulfils his primal need. She's not a happy camper.
The film then moves into 'society' territory where we witness Carol's attempts to fit in with the American/Western Society ideal. Todd Haynes shines during this part of the film as he ever-so-carefully paints the picture of insidious tedium that Carol encounters during her struggle to recognise what is 'wrong' with her. In particular, I love the scene where Carol enters her friend's ultra modern home to console her on the death of a relative. The friend utters the words "It's so unreal" in such an ironically surreal environment.
We then move into the third act of the film where Carol is forced to seek proper 'help' for her condition. After the 'slap in the face' realisation that this all may be in her mind, with a perfectly executed scene (especially the set!) at the psychiatrist's office, she happens upon a brochure at her local gym entitled "Do You Smell Fumes?".
From here on the movie turns into true horror with Carol moving into the isolated complex with other so called 'victims' of modern society/pollution. Some of the scenes remind me of my teenage years where my older brother took me a 'Born Again Christian' Church (no offence!) where people spoke in tongues and generally 'freaked out' because of their obvious reaction to the perceived constraints of their lives. It's quite an uncomfortable experience, especially with Carol's husband present, and Mr Haynes captures it perfectly. We then experience some almost unbearable scenes between Carol and her husband, who's trying to show some understanding and empathy but doesn't quite get it (with son in tow) and the frustration is dreadfully apparent.
Then we see the product of this 'cult' gone too far with the fellow in the weird getup walking around like he's seriously physically crippled around the complex, the ultimate in horror! The film ends with Carol finally moving into one the ceramic built enclosures that supposedly protect and help you build your resilience to your environment. She looks at herself in the mirror, recalling a story from a fellow cult member, and pitifully says "I love you".
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Nothing has ever come close to this
As a world weary adult with a particular penchant for horror films, I've seen a lot of horror in my time. Of course being a horror fan means you're subjected to some of the most terrible attempts at film making ever put to celluloid and my estimate would calculate that probably 95% of horror is rubbish. However, as all you horror heads out there know, you put yourself through this to discover that 5% of gold that gets released so rarely.
The Blair Witch Project is a very welcome addition to that 5%. An ingenious idea well executed has produced one of the scariest experiences this 30 something year old has endured. Thanks to this film I am now officially scared of the dark and not ashamed to admit it.
The uneasiness began to creep in when the locals were telling their tales of the Blair Witch legend, particularly the crazy old lady with her "fur" story. The documentary style was maintained with absolute perfection and hats off to the film makers for showing discipline and sticking to their original idea throughout.
The woods are beautifully eerie, the soundtrack of indecipherable sounds, events that keep getting stranger and more terrifying as the film rolls on and the growing sense of desperation and hopelessness finally brings us to the perfect climax set in that run down house that is the stuff of my nightmares.
I truly don't believe I'll ever be able to re-create the real terror I felt at the first viewing of this film and now I'm doomed to walk the earth fruitlessly trying for the rest of my days.
Gets good when imitating Carpenter
Sometimes, some things are better left unsaid Mr Zombie. The first half of this film that goes into great detail about Michael Myers terrible childhood is so graphically violent that it makes you squirm and feel nauseous during some scenes. Mind you, this feeling is not to be mistaken for being on the edge of your seat, like any good horror movie should do.
The reality is, who really cares about the background of a slasher monster? Although, I quite liked the idea of describing Michael as the "perfect storm", a human that has just the right combination of natural inclination, coaxed along by their environment to become a killing machine such as Mr Myers.
The second half of the film that copies the original feel of Carpenter's version is when things start to get interesting. The use of the original music score and Carpenter's tricks of the trade combined with the knowledge of how vicious and dangerous Michael Myers is was quite effective I thought. That was 'edge of your seat' stuff.
Anyhow, hats off to Zombie for doing a pretty good job overall.
The Exorcist (1973)
They don't make em like they used to...
"The scariest movie of all time". Some movie goers agree and some disagree. I belong to the former group, though I would like to rephrase it to "One of the scariest movies of all time". For those of you who have been living in a cave for the past twenty two years, the story is of a pre-pubescent girl, Regan (Linda Blair), possessed by a demon whom purports to be the Devil himself ("Now kindly undo these straps!").
In this day and age of schlock fest horror films being relentlessly released (or spewed out for want of a better term) by the big wig studios on a quest to cash in on the latest teenage trend, this premise for a horror story may not seem so scary to most. However, it's the road we take to arrive at this supposition that makes this film stand out from the rest.
The seeds of dread and fear are planted early with screen legend Max Von Sydow's Father Merrin receiving disturbing and familiar Omens of what is to come during an archaeological dig in Northern Iraq.
We're then taken to the setting where the real horror will begin in the Georgetown home of Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), a successful divorcée film actress living with her daughter Regan. We're initially presented with a Regan who loves horses, has a close and loving relationship with her mother, is uncomfortable with the strained relationship between her parents and has the innocent demeanour and narrow vocabulary of every normal young girl.
The carefully crafted and ever so gradual change in Regan's personality, the strange drawings and figurines she creates, the emergence of Captain Howdy (Regan's imaginary friend) and strange outbursts ("You're gonna die up there") and so called physical convulsions force Chris to turn to doctors and eventually psychiatrists to try and get to the bottom of Regan's ever worsening behaviour. Her vocabulary becomes quite extensive with spine chilling, sudden maturity and her outbursts more terrifyingly violent. After exhausting all the "somatic" possibilities for Regan's troubles Chris desperately seeks help from world weary Jesuit Psychiatrist Priest Father Karras (Jason Miller) requesting an exorcism.
By the time Karras meets Regan, any semblance of the innocent young girl has completely vanished. Karras is grappling with his faith and subsequently doubts she is truly 'possessed'. Finally convinced that an exorcism is the way to go, he seeks permission from the Catholic Church, who grant him with the condition that he perform it with the help of the experienced Father Merrin.
Merrin arrives like a knight in shining armour for the ultimate showdown! A great screenplay by William Peter Blatty (based on his book), intelligent directing from William Friedken and outstanding performances from all the cast, particularly Ellen Burstyn as the traumatised mother make for a classic piece of horror that will stand the test of time. 10/10