Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Neon Demon (2016)

The Neon Demon is exactly what I was expecting. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing, although I wish it has surprised me just a little.

Much like Starry Eyes, this movie can be boiled down thus: the power of beauty, and how far people are willing to go, to get it. 

Or alternatively: the director of Drive does a horror film about models. Or, it's Showgirls meets Drive oozing through a filter of giallo? I could come up with these all night :)

Jesse is a sixteen year old newcomer model in LA. Despite her inexperience she definitely has the 'it' factor, and everyone who crosses her path can see that. As a result, she mostly glides through her days contending with fellow models, a sleazy motel landlord (Keanu Reeves!) and the unrequited affections of male and female acquaintances. As another character puts it, Jesse enters a room "and it's the middle of winter, and you are the sun".

We wonder how long this can last, however, as Jesse's success starts to taint her small town naivety and kindness. She feeds on the flashbulbs, the adoration, the fact she can "be the sun" without even trying... and she becomes something more powerful. With this ascension though, comes a greater threat of being overthrown.

Where Starry Eyes drained the colour from LA, The Neon Demon chooses the opposite approach. This film looks, appropriately, like an editorial shoot for a fashion magazine, and it feels distinctly otherworldly. It's slow and sensual, with the titular neon drenching much of its look.

This is another horror with yet another synth soundtrack... and yet I'm still not sick of them! Cliff Martinez creates sounds that perfectly match this glossy, alien world.

Most characters are fleshed out to a serviceable degree, with tropes like bitchy fellow models, cutthroat agent, clingy nice guy who discovered her, and absurdly artistic designers and photographers. Jesse herself, as well as the first "friend" she makes (a make-up artist played by Jena Malone, below left) give the viewer more to sink their teeth into - but barely. The latter in particular appears to be a story all to herself, though we are only ever given a small glimpse of it.

I don't mind a film leaving me with some questions - what a boring world it would be if everything made sense, right? - and this pill is definitely easier to swallow with the sugar coating of the stunning visual aspect. I can also see why a concentration on style over substance makes complete sense here. That said, this film would have blown my fucking mind if it had just grabbed some of those loose ends and worked a bit harder to tidy them up.

So I would warn anyone not open to a horror film heavy on the eye-candy and drowsy symbolism to avoid.

However, if like me you're a sucker for neon, high-fashion editorial visuals, synthy soundtracks and blood (so much blood) I would say get a hold of this and just let it all wash over you. I've a feeling it will benefit from a repeat viewing, too.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Houses October Built (2014)

Have you ever been to a haunted house? Being a non-US native the concept is slightly alien to me, though I think I visited something similar once. I'm not sure my nerves are cut out for such a place, anyway - and it's that fact that made me think this film might be an enjoyable way to spend 90mins.

And for the most part it is... although it's also chock full of faintly cheap scares.

Presented as found footage, we travel with a group of friends in their RV across the states, looking for the scariest and most extreme haunted house they can find.

It's pretty good fodder for a film to be honest. The POV shooting style really lends itself to someting like this, as there's no real disconnect between the viewer and the haunted house experience. It's like we're going through it ourselves. I imagine in the cinema this was definitely one of those films that had people jumping in their seats.

Have you ever wondered, what would happen if a terrible murder (or zombie outbreak, etc) happened on Halloween? How would anyone know those bodies and blood is real?

And it's this idea that The Houses October Built plays with, too. This group is intent on visiting extreme haunted houses; to recapture the fear they had the first time they experienced one. As they visit more and more, they and indeed we, are left to wonder the following:

  1. Is some of this creepy backwoods shit they are seeing actually happening?
  2. What's the worst thing they are going to see/how far are they willing to go for the ultimate thrill?
  3. Are they being followed? Because that creepy clown/bunny/weird doll faced girl looks just the one from 300 miles ago...

The worst (and by that I mean best) thing in the entire film.

The "found" footage is intercut with haunted house workers being interviewed on camera, and these seem so completely genuine I wonder if the crew actually did seek out some real people to talk to. The acting of the friends, too, is very natural. They get drunk, they get irritated by one another... just like you do on a normal group holiday.

Where the movie went off the rails for me, was firstly jumping from footage the friends took, to footage apparently from the gang terrorizing them. Yeeah. Found footage to begin with requires quite the suspension of disbelief; to then ask us to buy into a second source of it in the same narrative, is a bit much.

Secondly, the ending feels like the writers didn't really know what to do, so they just picked something and quickly made it happen, and that was that. There was much build up to the Halloween day itself in this movie, with an onscreen countdown and everything. So the tension to The Day was definitely there. I will concede that this sequence was creepily effective..

The problem was that everything that came after it... not so much.

With creepiness as good as it sometimes gets, plus the cheap-but-potent scares, I would recommend this for a night in with the lights down and a few friends over. Especially this time of year. And if you don't see that doll face mask thing in your nightmares, you are a stronger person than I am!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

We Are Still Here (2015)

You know what I love? I bloody love a title screen that jars against what came before. When everything is quiet and still, and the audience gets kind of comfortable with that, and then BAM the title slams up. It's one of my irrational loves. It brings me an absurd amount of joy.

We Are Still Here is a slow burn haunted house film. And rather like its title screen described above, it gets us used to its subdued ways before going pretty apeshit at the end and being a big old surprise. It's amazing. 

That's not to say all the bloodshed comes in the final act. It doesn't. Leading us along the path of "oh god!" and "what the hell?!" (I said both of these things out loud: a recommendation in itself) are some well executed jump scares and quick, gory moments to punctuate the white middle class normality.

The plot centres around a middle aged couple who've just moved into a house in a snowy, apparently sleepy New England town. Having tragically lost their son in a car accident not too long before their relocation, they're attempting to heal as best they can from such heartbreak. 

Only... the house almost immediately reacts to their inhabiting it; photos fall, doors open and close, and wife Anne swears she can feel the presence of their son Bobby in the house with them. Her husband Paul is a cynic, sympathetically indulging her until witnessing things he just cannot deny, leading him to literally exclaim: "I believe it all!".

It transpires that beneath the house lurks a deep evil, one that wakes every thirty years and must be fed. If a sacrifice isn't made, the entire town pays the price. The words of a shifty neighbour sounded sinister at the time he uttered them, but then become all too clear: This house needs a family. (Also serving as the film's tagline).

Dark, charred figures stalk the house, appearing both as visions and as direct threats. If they touch you, you burn. They can devour you, and they can punch right through your chest - but why do they seem to be sparing Paul and Anne?

Boldly, the film shows these early and often, but benefits from doing so.

So I'm finding it interesting that I enjoyed this film so much and found the similarly slow-into-bonkers Starry Eyes from a couple of days ago somehow disappointing.

Maybe it's because We Are Still Here is set in the 70s - and I mean flawlessly set in the 70s, they nail the vibe in my opinion - and many of the protagonists are older? Paul and Anne are a rather normal couple, older but still affectionate and unsteadily (realistically so) dealing with the loss of their son. Maybe it's just there was more emotional meat there. 

The set-up of such arguably mundane characters facing not only rampaging townsfolk but also cruel ghosts is, to be honest, delightful. There's a reason this type of narrative set-up is used so often: it works. Barricaded in the bedroom with nothing but a handful of small knives, Anne fumbles and drops one of them before the couple arm themselves, hands trembling. It's just a great little collection of scenes; their nervous defiance.

I remember pausing the film not long after this moment with about 15mins remaining, and having no idea where this was going to end up. The final part of the final act is a gloriously batshit bloodbath. If the violence from earlier were shots, this bit is a full-on keg stand.

The walls are quite literally soaked in blood as heads are blown off, stomachs are torn open and in two of my favourite moments: blood is belched from the crawlspace in the basement and an unfortunate fallen townsperson is climbed upon by one of the ghosts; each hand and foot placement creating a hot hissing sound as they make their way up to his head.

The house is hungry, and it feeds. People are sucked right into the foundations before our very eyes!

Throughout the film there are many prolonged shots of the snowy countryside surrounding the house. Bare branches and empty roads stretch out all around, giving us a sense of the isolation and claustrophobia inside.

Not to mention working as a counter to how hot the house is for the time of year (early on they complain of the basement being abnormally hot, putting it down to a faulty boiler). It's a great line-drawing technique of "in here" and "out there" as well as a cheeky spin on the trope of ghosts lowering the temperature around them. These spooks actually burn hot.

The ending may require some discussion (online or otherwise) or perhaps another viewing to fully wrap your head around things, and without having done much of either yet, I'll state that to some degree it seems open to interpretation. However I don't think this detracts from what a solid and remarkably enjoyable film this is.

Here's the poster art, just because I think it's worth seeing what a great job they did of this, too...

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Starry Eyes (2014)

From the synth score to the retro looking titles, Starry Eyes seemed like a film I would really get into... but something about it just didn't stick.

Charting the questionable ascent into stardom of aspiring young actress Sarah Walker, this is a slow moving body horror... cult... slasher? (an argument could be made for any and all of those sub-genres). There is a lot of build up, a very grisly payoff and some gruesomeness along the way. But somehow the pacing seems off. We shouldn't have to wait until the last 15min to be fully engaged with this movie, right?

Sarah lives in LA and works a crappy job while going to auditions for acting roles. She's competent enough as an actress, that much we see - but she's not getting anywhere, and after each disappointing audition experience, she goes into a kind of... demonic, hair-pulling seizure. For one audition she's caught in the bathroom doing this by the casting director and asked to return to the room and do it again, to order. After some initial hesitation, she complies.

It appears that these filmmakers are after something very special from their leading ladies.

I will concede that this poster art is gorgeous though.

I will give writer and director team Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer credit for not having this play out exactly as a run-of-the-mill Faustian tale, and there are some really arresting visuals throughout, particularly in the final sequence (even though what happens is kind of signposted about halfway through the run time).

The slightly hyper-real vibe about the movie also works to make everything feel off-kilter and nightmarish. Most of the film is shot in a cold, blue light; going against the warm tones of Los Angeles that we're used to in movies. This doesn't seem a nice place to be.

LA itself is shown as a sleazy, unfriendly place full of shallow young people with no clue what they're doing. And this fact specifically posed a problem for me.

For one thing, all of Sarah's friends are pretty shitty. One in particular had my husband yelling "Christ, just kill her already!" so yes, you know or at least hope that they are going to get theirs, eventually. The problem is that it takes sooo long to get there! At least with a conventional slasher (a good one anyway) you know kills are going to happen with some kind of regularity.

Ordinarily, films that are still and slow are more satisfying in their denouement than this. What was I missing?

I don't know... maybe I'm being too harsh. It had occurred to me that this might be good to watch in a double bill with The Invitation. Both are Hollywood hills-centric with a cult twist, and maybe a themed re-watch might make me appreciate it a little more...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I gotta get ready for a house full of ghouls!

As much as it pains me, reviews might have to be paused for a few days, while I prep for my Halloween party this weekend.

I'm confident I can pick the momentum back up again though, don't you worry. I've loved this challenge so far, so I'm looking forward to continuing.

In the meantime, check out this video a friend of mine linked me to. Remember my "there's a difference between being made to jump, and being scared" comment, a few film reviews ago? This expands on that in an interesting way. 


Technically it really should be titled "with most (or popular) horror movies today", but I suppose this one is punchier.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bound to Vengeance (2015)

The best thing about Bound To Vengeance is that poster artwork.

I'm pretty sure you have better things to do with 1hr19min.

Trollhunter (2010)

New favourite alert!

I started watching this Norwegian found footage tale more out of duty to my list, than actually being excited to see it. I am an idiot.

Taking the form of a documentary made by a few college kids about Hans, a mysterious hunter, this film handles its rather outlandish subject matter with confidence and humour.

Initially thought to be a bear poacher, it transpires Hans is the trollhunter of the title. He lives a lonely nocturnal life working for the TSS (Troll Security Service) smothering himself in stink and tracking and killing wayward trolls, thus keeping livestock and (unaware) human populations protected. 

Hans has seen some bad shit, and he's done worse. He's tired and sick of the bureaucracy of his job, so he lets the kids tag along for the ride, hoping to spread the word of this unknown threat and maybe have someone else take over the task of hunting.

That all sounds crazy, right? Well it's crazy how good this film is... especially considering that it makes some decisions I ordinarily think are bad ones in horror.

It shows the "monster" early, completely and throughout, for example. But this only serves to put us right there with the crew, jaws dropping and hearts pounding (and mine literally was) with every inconceivable encounter.

And it uses CGI, which shouldn't come as a surprise of course, but the way it's used sits so comfortably next to everything else that you just buy into it. I felt like a fool not being able to watch a CGI troll kill a CGI sheep onscreen... but it's just so bloody believable.

The acting is so natural, full of little moments that read as simple and real, so whether they were written that way or were an actor's choice, it doesn't really matter, both deserve credit.

Another clever touch is the inclusion of aspects already part of the stunning Norwegian landscape, such as electricity pylons; weaved into the narrative as if put there on purpose (as electric fences to deter trolls, obviously).

The use of the "already-existing" applies elsewhere, too.

Trolls have been present in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore dating back to 1276(!). In Trollhunter we have the beautiful juxtaposition of the amused disbelief of people who grew up reading fairy stories about these beings, next to Hans and others delivering cold hard facts about them. We learn gestation periods, life spans, why/how UV light harms them and whether the Tusseladd breed of troll is born with three heads or not (they aren't, and technically they aren't heads...). 

It's just a perfect narrative device, bringing these beings to life and making them legitimately scary in a more intellectual way than rewriting the mythology and doing something basic like attempting to give them a scary appearance.

Despite its fantastical subject matter, Trollhunter brings and successfully maintains an escalating sense of things getting worse. It opens with text explaining that this is literally a "found footage" film, so we know ultimately the kids at least go missing, if not worse. With this as a starting point it's just a matter of sitting and watching, wondering exactly how.

The tension is where this film gets you. As the pace gains momentum in perfectly timed increments, the trolls get bigger, the destruction increases and the hunter commenting on something being a "bad sign" gets more frequent.

The last big sequence actually made me flinch and exclaim out loud more than once. I cannot remember the last time a horror film did that! There's also a shot towards the very end that I found breathtaking.

For anyone put off by subtitles: don't be. I'm embarrassed to admit, sometimes I tell myself I'm just not in the mood... but bear in mind that because your focus has to be unrelenting on a film where you must read the dialogue, it really pays off. No glancing at social media, no multi-tasking; you have to pay attention! I had forgotten how much it actually adds to the overall enjoyment and vested interest in the movie.

There's thought and care with this film, right down to the very last word and the final song over the end credits. You should definitely check it out, if you haven't already done so!

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Facility (2012)

Deliberately made this large so you can see the hands, middle left.

Apparently based on a true story (obviously sexed up into horror fare) The Facility deals with a clinical trial gone horribly wrong.

Seven people accept £2000 - payable on completion, natch - to spend two weeks together, being administered a drug called "Pro9" and observed of its side effects. Problems arise on the first night, however, when one of the group starts behaving violently. It's the dickhead estate agent though, so we don't shed any tears.

When the meek hypochondriac wanders off and returns covered in blood, things start to get a little more intense.

The reactions to the drug are kind of like the rage virus in 28 Days Later, but way less scary and significantly less interesting.

One-location horror films with a set group of people usually really float my boat, but this one was disappointing. It burned too slowly in the beginning and even when the action and gore kicked in, it was already too far gone into snoozeville to redeem itself.

It's kind of laughably presented as fact, too, with sombre black title cards on the intro and outro to the movie.

But basically this film amounts to watching a group of people in surgical scrubs shout at one another until one of them turns red and starts punching things.

If all this wasn't bad enough, a huge amount of points have to be deducted for the sheer fact that the only "infected" ragey person to inexplicably rip off all their clothes and run around naked, was the young blonde girl.

This film should be sent to the isolation ward.

🍺 For this film I was sipping on... 🍺

Pumpkin UFO by Harpoon This might be my favourite so far of the pumpkin beers I've tried with a more moderate alcohol content. It's got the spice flavour as you'd expect but I feel like there's also a little more sweetness too? The pumpkin on the label is also super cute. I'd give it 3/5.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mr. Jones (2013)

Whoooo boy. Okay.

Another tagline for this as well as the one above, is a quote taken direct from the film itself: "If you see him, RUN."

That applies for when you see this come up on Netflix as a suggestion too, just fyi.

So let's begin with the plot, because it isn't half bad. Married couple Scott and Penny move to the desert so that Scott can pursue his dream of making a nature documentary. However, not long after their relocation, he's lost interest in the idea and begins to have doubts about not only the doc, but everything in his life.

When the couple discover a house not far from theirs, and decide to trespass all the way down into the basement, they find eerie scarecrow-like totems everywhere. These things are incredibly cool (if you like that kind of thing) and Penny recognises them as the work of a mysterious artist by the name of, you guessed it: Mr. Jones.

The excitement of this discovery, plus a new direction for the documentary stirs both Scott and Penny into life, and he briefly travels to NYC to interview some folks about what they know of Mr. Jones. One of the interviewees, an obviously tortured soul, is the guy who lends his words to the aforementioned other tagline. Unfortunately for our two main characters, this warning is dismissed without a second thought.

And the film continues on, with shadowy figures in the woods, more forays into deeper basements and a hell of a lot of shots like this:

Did I mention this is a found footage movie?

Now I feel like I have a high tolerance for found footage, but Mr. Jones tested those limits. It wasn't even the shaky-cam seasick thing, either. It's more the question of why they bothered to keep the camera rolling most of the time.

With all of the playing around with light and dark, and LOUD NOISES, maybe this worked better in the cinema than it does at home; but I couldn't help but think that some filmmakers need to learn that being made to jump and being scared are not necessarily the same thing.

There's only so many times you can trot out a the same kind of jump scare, or a reveal of someone standing in a dark corner before it becomes old and tired.

Ditto the characters making bad decisions. Even in horror, the genre built on a foundation of "why are you going in there" and "why are you doing that", when I'm forced to watch two chumps doing dumb shit over and over again, my eye-rolls are going to start to drown out my nerves.

The last 30mins or so of Mr. Jones really loses it, to the point where every time it cut to black - and it did this a lot - I was praying for the credits to roll. I don't even think I fully understood the ending of this film, but I really don't care!

There was also a pointless numbering of days at the start of the movie. "Day 51" it stated ominously, but then proceeded to do nothing with.

A shame that such an interesting idea, of eerie totems and what they could represent (and possibly be spreading) is squandered on cheap scares and nonsense.

This has more than a dash of Blair Witch about it, but don't be fooled. Reader, heed my warning: RUN.

Honeymoon (2014)

Both of these are for the same film, isn't that crazy? Look how much they vary, and give completely different ideas about what you're in for.

Equally, the tagline "After the ceremony, comes the ritual" is something I am sure someone in the marketing department was very proud of, but it too gives something of a false impression.

For what it's worth, I prefer the left poster. And now that I've seen the film, happen to think it suits it a whole lot more. Artwork choices for movies really fascinate me, I talked about them at the end of my review of Teeth, too, if you're interested.

Anyway, Honeymoon is an interesting little suspense film. Its concept isn't anything new: spouse finds partner doing something weird in the middle of the night; behaviour gets increasingly odd until finally the why is revealed. However, it carries itself well - though I will say if not for some icky scenes and a bit of bloodshed, it maybe falls closer to thriller than horror.

Bea (Rose Leslie) was my favourite thing about the film. She and husband Paul (Harry Treadaway - you may recognise him as Dr. Frankenstein from Penny Dreadful!) both start the film as you would imagine: happy, giggly, insatiable newlyweds.

They have come to spend time at Bea's family cabin and all is right with the world... until it isn't. Of course, their journey throughout the film gradually erodes both of them, but it is Bea's transformation that I found most interesting. Hair and wardrobe help, of course, as her spark dims, then goes out completely... 

But Leslie is great at conveying this change, too. Her body language shifts from being open, loose and free, to guarded and curled inward. It really does appear that something awful has happened to her.

Bea quietly carries herself as a victim, but won't tell Paul why. What happened in the woods that night? What are those marks on her legs? She flat out denies anything is wrong, but is clearly not herself as she forgets certain words and how to do simple things, and acts uncharacteristically impulsively all of a sudden.

She also stops responding to when Paul wants to have sex. Now... I do understand where they were going with this... I get that they are just married and on their honeymoon, so the sex we see them have in the opening scenes establishes that they are a happily sexual couple...

The problem I had was Paul. Even after Bea has been acting increasingly odd, and something is clearly amiss, and her inner thighs seem sore... he continues to come on to her in a way that ultimately comes across as a power thing rather than a sex thing. 

Thinking about this, and the act of writing of this review and has led me to the conclusion that we actually aren't meant to like Paul. Ultimately, all of the sympathy from the viewer is intended for Bea.

Honeymoon was written (co-written, along with Phil Graziadei) and directed by Leigh Janiak, and it's her directorial debut. It's an impressively strong film when you take that into consideration, and knowing the the writing and directing comes from a female perspective makes sense to me. 

Paul may be the character we follow around more, the one we have most in common with (in that he's clueless as to what's happening and so are we...) but he's not a particularly nice guy when it comes down to it. I thought that was a rather interesting way to spin this strange little tale.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Hatchet (2007)

This was swapped with Creepshow for tonight's viewing, as I thought it would make an interesting next day bedfellow to The Final Girls

Both are a more modern day homage to "old school American horror", but whereas last night's was heavy on the comedy and light on the gore... Hatchet is heavy on both. We see someone get disemboweled in the opening scene!

Well look who it is!

Even though it's a comedy, Hatchet is darker both literally and figuratively than The Final Girls. Taking place in a New Orleans swamp largely at night, it's nastier, dirtier, wetter and more gory. We get guts and tits within the first 5min.

This ultimately became the first of three films set over a period of a few days, and this one introduces us to the legend of Victor Crowley: the Jason Voorhees character of this franchise. And just who is Victor chasing around the swamp?

The group is full of tropes (bimbo, heartbroken college dude, middle aged couple from the Midwest) but the dialogue is quick and witty enough that they don't irritate or appear too on the nose. Besides, the kills come thick and fast too, so there's no time to get bored. If there's one thing that drives me crazy in slasher films, it's too much talking!

What recommends this film and makes it stick in the mind more than anything else I think, are the creative kills. Director Adam Green and special effects artist John Carl Buechler went far with these, and with no CGI! So every snapping bone and tendon, and every spurt of blood was right there in front of the camera. These kills are bonkers, and I was reminded tonight that I giggle like an idiot when I see this stuff. Is that weird?

Hatchet is one of those rare films that you can tell is horror made by a horror fan. And an attack by belt sander, plus cameos from horror movie royalty make me a very happy one whilst watching this.

Fun fact: IMDb trivia tells me that there's actually only one death by hatchet in this film.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

The Final Girls (2015)

This film was just the tonic, as I was in the mood for something lighthearted. The Final Girls nailed it in every sense.

So originally I had slated Final Girl to watch... That was, until a couple of people suggested I not bother, and instead swap it out for this movie. I love my friends! This film is a riot and a real treat for horror fans who fancy something fun and cheekily respectful to our favourite genre.

All hail knowingly cheesy DVD art!

This is a film that's so self-referential it's one step away from looking straight down the camera. And yet it's not at all annoying, and manages to play out as funny and fresh.

One of my favourite ways for a horror film to start is the sudden shock. Say a character is quickly established who seems like they are in it for the long haul, but then quickly dispatched (see: Scream) or a scene seems harmless enough and then something brutal happens (see: The Descent). Well... this one starts like that.

Main character Max is now an orphan, and a few years later she still hasn't fully processed the loss of her mum, a former 80s slasher actress. After a bizarre accident at a screening of her mum's most popular film, Max and a few of her friends find themselves trapped in that very same movie: "Camp Bloodbath"

They can't leave (scenes and dialogue skip and repeat until they stop attempting to escape, and routes away from the action just loop them right back to it) and thanks to one of them being a horror nerd, they know who dies, when, and why. Unfortunately they also learn that even though they are trespassers in this story, they aren't immune to being killed off by "Billy" the psycho, either.

Using their genre knowledge, such as: boobs summon the killer; the final girl has to be a virgin etc, and basically being a bit more streetwise than the camp counselor characters, the friends set traps and figure out how to kill Billy, end the film and hopefully get back home.

The emotional heart of the story lies with Max. I'm unfortunately now a sucker for stories of parental loss, so I connected to this sub-plot of grief, and wanting someone back so you can say everything you didn't before it was too late. It's a nice little bit of soul in the middle of a ridiculous film, but it works.

The modern day teens are established quickly, but well, so when their lives are on the line you actually care! FINALLY. Also I just plain love Taissa Farmiga (American Horror Story) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) so watching them act is a joy.

There are multiple clever uses of effects here, paying tribute to conventions in film while simultaneously ignoring the rules. Text at the bottom of a screen denoting a flashback causes the kids to trip over; a new scene literally "wipes" itself down the current one, engulfing them as it goes, and credits appear above the tree line in the sky, completely visible as they start their crawl.

The look, feel and even sound of those 80s slashers is perfectly captured, too. From the neon smoke and lightning to the Evil Dead-like twisty camerawork, it's all here and executed (pardon the pun) with such love.

The music I will let speak for itself...

A final girl word: Don't expect buckets of gore with this one. Ironically, given the title of the film-within-a-film, the kills are more comedic than creative. It's really about everything else that happens around them.

But let's just say I'm excited that Camp Bloodbath had a sequel!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Creep (2014)

Not the 2004 one set on the London underground after the last train - though I am fond of that one too! - this is an odd but ultimately satisfying little film from writers / directors / starring a couple of dudes by the names of Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass.

And I use the term "little" with consideration here, as this "found footage" flavour flick has a cast of two (not counting a voice on the phone).

Answering a vague Craiglist ad - for Craiglist is surely the beginning of a lot of hellish stories - videographer Aaron heads to a remote cabin for a one day filming job. He's met by eccentric (but, he assumes) harmless Josef, who leads him around telling tales and doing weird and faintly creepy things. 

Josef is strange from the get-go, but never really lurches too far into it to be all out scary. Thus, Aaron sticks around, films him, hears some strange shit and then tries to leave. After too much to drink and the night culminating in a scuffle, he gets away and tries to put the strangeness behind him. 

Only, he hasn't left it behind. Aaron keeps having strange dreams, hearing noises outside his apartment and most alarming of all, he's receiving packages from Josef, containing gifts and videos.

In a fit of exasperation and panic, he calls the police, only to realise when questioned that he knows absolutely nothing about Josef. He was paid in cash, never got a second name from him and that "holiday home" cabin turns out to be a rental.

Who is this guy and why won't he leave Aaron alone? Is he just a lonely person in need of a friend, with no sense of social cues - or is he something much more sinister? And what's with the wolf obsession?!

Creep is kind of a slow simmer with moments of high tension and some pretty effective scares. I am now five films into my Octoberfest of horror, and this is the first one where I've felt the need to brace myself because I was sure a jump scare was coming. Usually, it was!

This film's strength comes from the simplicity of the story and the portrayal of Josef himself. Duplass plays it with a dopey, earnest face that you find hard to think of as belonging to a bad guy.

But we know that's probably our first mistake ;)

🍺 For this film I was sipping on... 🍺

Pumpkin Ale by Saranac Brewing Co.
Three pumpkin beers into this and I am starting to wonder if I do indeed like pumpkin beer! I am sure I've had some in the past that I loved, but sadly this is not one of them. The quest continues... Again, I'd give it 2/5.