Archive for October, 2012

Sinister (Review time!)

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2012 by splatterpictures

I remember first watching the trailer for the new Film Sinister a few months back and I joked about how it seemed similar in title and theme as 2011’s horror hit Insidious. We got demons we got ghost children, we got moving to a house and the titles are nearly identical. Now that I’ve finally watched Sinister I can safely say that they are indeed different films.

Sinister is directed by Scott Derrickson who’s no stranger to the genre having dipped his pen and sat in the director’s chair for a couple of horror films already. Starring in the movie is Ethan Hawke who’s had a lengthy and critically acclaimed career already.

Hawke plays a true crime writer Ellison Oswalt. Ellison experienced a major hit 10 years ago when he wrote a book called Kentucky Blood. The fame afforded him money, countless interviews; the story was made all the more remarkable because in that case he stumbled upon something the police had missed. Sadly all things come to an end and with two failed books behind him Ellison is desperate for one more hit so he can have financial and personal stability. He brings his family to a house in a small town where a grizzly murder occurred in which a family was hung to death from a tree. (We’re treated to said hanging in glorious 8mm at the beginning of the film).

At this point in the story we watch as Ellison’s wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and two young children basically adjust to having their lives uprooted again. Tracy is probably the least likable character. I get that she was supposed to be tired of the true crime business and didn’t want her husband writing another – especially since his books tend to make him notorious among the local police community- but she was flipping out about everything. Nag nag nag…anyways.

The scares happen when Ellison discovers a strange box of old 8mm film and projector in the attic. He watches them and quickly realizes they are home movies that always end with a family’s death. The families seem to have no relation other than; everyone is killed except for one child who goes missing. At this point the film plays out a lot like a totally different kind of horror where somebody is tracking down what seems to be a serial killer.

“I notice you, noticing me”

With every new bit of evidence Ellison discovers he becomes more and more obsessed with how these killings are connected; strange demonic symbols and person referred to as “Mr. Boogie” that is in a few frames of every killing dating back to the 1960’s. Ellison learns through a convenient connection through a local cop that these symbols are of Bagul: the eater of children. He lives in the images and once you’ve seen them it’s already too late. Ellison has to uncover the mystery of Bagul and the murders but the creeping dread that surrounds him is getting worse every day and the real question is he able to hold on to his sanity and forget his desire for literary fame long enough to save his family?

This film has a lot going for it in terms of premise and style. I liked the use of the 8mm film in a lot of places because it gives a gritty and raw feel to an otherwise slick Hollywood production. A lot of the film also hinges on Ethan Hawke’s performance while watching the grotesque images on the film which he does admirably.

The scares come frequently but people who are not fans of cheap-shot jumps will probably become frustrated as the film relies heavily on “loud noises” to create the startling effects. The most disturbing scenes come from the films themselves which are silent and the audience only has the rhythmic flicker of the tapes to accompany the grizzly murders and in this sense there is nothing supernatural about it.

An amazingly effective scene has Ethan Hawke slowly walking his house with a baseball bat while creepy ghost children keep rather skilfully out of his peripheral is in my opinion the highlight of the film.

The film falls short in several key areas. I felt a lot of the scares were predictable in that nothing really startled me at all. Also, like my complaints with another recent film The Possession” It felt all too familiar in certain key areas. Demon, obsession, angry police, occult expert shows up, inner family turmoil and things of that ilk.

Another thing I thought could have been done better was the overall look of Bagul. He looked like some Slipknot reject and while scenes with him actually in it are few I was waiting for him to just bust out a face melting guitar solo.

Sinister overall gets a passing grade from me. Even though the film has its fair share of clichés- It’s a solid movie to help you enjoy your Halloween season with. It cleverly does a balancing act between a true crime horror and a haunted house movie with a little dash of Asian horror.  Hawke’s performance as I mentioned is excellent and I felt sympathetic to him in the end. (spoiler alert) no happy endings here which is something that always gets extra points from me.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Antiviral (It’s weird man)

Posted in Updates with tags , , , on October 12, 2012 by splatterpictures

Classifying horror can be a task unto itself but connoisseurs of the genre will always be compelled to do so. We as a people love to name things and then group similar things together. It’s just an easier way of living. This compulsion is why we have genres and sub-genres and sub-sub genres. I could go on adding subs but I’m making myself hungry. While eating said foot-long sandwich I would be brought to giddy laughter watching a group of horror buffs try and categorize Antiviral beyond anything other than “A Cronenberg” Brandon Cronenberg that is.

Antiviral marks the directorial debut of the offspring of the acclaimed master of fucking weird; David Cronenberg. I came in to this film extremely curious as to what kind of director Brandon would be. Would he reject the types of films his father made and find his own style or would he embrace his heritage and try to “out-weird” the old man? It’s safe to say after watching it that it’s the latter.

Antiviral stars Caleb Landry Jones as Syd March. You will probably know him best playing a young Banshee in X-Men: First class. Here his acting chops are put to the test as he plays Mister March who works for a company which in this not too distant future or perhaps even an alternate reality (not too sure) harvests celebrity illnesses and injects them in to paying customers. Celebrity infatuation has reached some truly twisted heights. How twisted you ask? Well let’s just say that a strange kind of cannibalism is putting it lightly.

Syd is something of a double agents. In his day to day he is a productive member of the corporate team that sells celebrity illness with gusto. The real money of course is in the black market stuff and he uses his access to the viral stock to infect himself and effectively “steal” the diseases in order to re-sell them on the secondary market.

One such celebrity client is Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) who is not only one of the worlds most sought after celebrities but also the exclusive partner for Syd’s company. On a routine sampling Syd injects himself with far more than he bargained for. A deadly manufactured viral agent that slowly and painfully kills its host. Syd must find a cure to save his life but to do that he must first discover who made the virus and why.

I was aware of the films premise well beforehand having heard a lot about it from the horror community. I had the slight expectation that I was about the be bludgeoned in the head with the concept that if we don’t change our celebrity obsessed culture this is the world we have to look forward to. While, I welcome social commentary in my movie watching experience I find that all too often the exaggerated take on a current trend in the world is in fact the only thing these movies have going for them. I’m happy to say that there is so much more going on here on top of the commentary.

This is a brilliant and well crafted story that touches on more than mob mentality when it comes to celebrities and touches on what fame is. It proposes how we ourselves can use celebrities to replace the emptiness in our lives like a new religion because it’s more tangible.

Anyone squeamish around blood or needles should probably stay at home. Not only are the injection shots graphic and numerous. They’re also real. The brief moments of gore are well worth it and nothing is without purpose. The real triumph here is with Caleb Landry Jones’ performance. Had a lesser actor been put in his place there is no doubt in my mind this film would have not had half the impact. That isn’t to say there isn’t a wonderful cast surrounding him, especially with the added boon of Malcolm McDowell.

For his first film coming out the gate Brandon Cronenberg has a lot to be proud of. It would be easy to throw away his involvement in the film industry as nothing but nepotism but at the end of the day. You still have your name on a movie that you wrote and directed that will cause you to sink or swim.  This is a thoughtful, brilliant, and downright messed up original work that like his father’s films before him is almost unclassifiable. Except if you’re going with the aforementioned “Cronenberg”.

Check out Patron Saint of Plagues: Things ARN’T What They Seem

Posted in Updates with tags on October 3, 2012 by splatterpictures

I’ve been following PSOP for just a short time but I like their sound and their style. Not only is it awesome that they are Canadian but this video drops just in time to help you enjoy the Halloween season! I’ve often said that music and the horror community are so intertwined it’s ridiculous. These guys Ooze the culture and are providing us with a pretty bad-ass soundtrack at the same time.  A good friend of mine over at Ottawa Horror (and if you’re not following them then I suggest you get with the program!) had some fun things to say you can check out a little sample!

“Filmed mainly at the Ottawa Jail Hostel, some of the best footage you see was filmed at night – on death row – leading up to the witching hour. Right about the same point in the song that your heart stops beating, the filming crew and band were feeling the effects of sixteen hours shooting at the most haunted place in Ontario.
So buckle the fuck up cuz here, things arn’t what they seem…” – ottawahorror.com

Dracula’s Daughter

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags on October 2, 2012 by splatterpictures

We’re hitting up another classic horror movie with Dracula’s Daughter. I realize the one I just did was Son of Frankenstein – I guess I am in the mood to talk about the succession on famous monsters (or I guess creators of famous monsters in Frankenstein’s case)

I have long had the secret shame that isn’t so secret that I don’t really like 1931’s Dracula. Although I would never deny its significance to horror or film history nor would I knock Bela  Lugosi’s performance which today over 80’s years later is still the most recognizable portrayal of horrors most famous vampire. For one reason or another that I’m certain would be heavily contested it was never one of my favorite universal creations. Dracula’s Daughter on the other hand has always remained fascinating to me.

The creation of this film went through a lot of stages before finally ending up officially in Universal’s hands. One of the biggest problems of going forward with the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was how to have a sequel when the titular vampire had met his end in the final act of the original film. One of the solutions was adapting a film based off of the supposedly omitted chapter of the original novel that’s called Dracula’s guest. However the script went through so many changes due to 1930’s censorship that the film in question uses nothing from the works at all.

Finally released in 1936 after many changes the film stars the Gloria Holden as Countess Marya Zaleska or as she’s revealed in the film “Dracula’s Daughter”. Now it’s never made perfectly clear but my assumption is that she isn’t his biological daughter but rather someone who had also been turned in to a vampire. Kinda like the Brides of Dracula thing.

The story starts off immediately following the events of the first movie. Two police officers discover the dead Renfield and staked Dracula. (FUN FACT: Bela Lugosi wasn’t in the film but his likeness was used for the wax dummy they used for the body) The only survivor there is Von Helsing played again by Edward Von Sloan. He admits to killing the count and is arrested and to be set to stand trial for murder. He of course believes that he can’t be charged with murder because he killed someone who was already dead. He sends for an old pupil of his Doctor Garth (Otto Kruger) who’s now a psychologist to argue his sanity.

Meanwhile a mysterious woman named Countess Marya comes to London to retrieve Dracula’s body. Not to resurrect it but to destroy it. The reality is that Marya loathes that she is a vampire and wants nothing more than to be a normal person once more. Yet, every night she can’t help her cravings for blood and sets upon the city for fresh victims.  She becomes fascinated by Doctor Garth and his comments he makes to her at a party about the mind being able to conquer mental illness and demands that he help him. When it becomes obvious she is the one committing the crimes he refuses her and in a desperate act she kidnaps his assistant then brings her back to Transylvania in order to lure the good doctor to her to make a choice: Save the girl or become her immortal partner.

The films high points are definitely the interaction between Countess Marya and her assistant Sandor played by Irving Pichel. While she is miserable being a vampire and longs for a normal life – he revels in the reality that she is a bloodthirsty killer and also wants to become a vampire. Really, Holden’s performance in this film is something that ahs stood the test of time. She plays a strong aristocratic woman that has an equal sense of superiority as well as a healthy does of self-hatred.  It portrays the curse of vampirism as an addiction that she can’t help but fight.  Even though some of the lesbian undertones were toned way down from the original script for a 1930’s audience I’m still surprised some of the scenes still played out the way they did. It’s wonderfully effective and pretty interesting considering the films age.

A few missteps were the comedy aspects of the movie. Doctor Garth has a relationship with his own assistant Janet (Marguerite Churchill) that’s something out of a romantic comedy. The scenes are so contrary to the horror elements that it almost seems cut in from other films. While Churchill’s performance is wonderfully energetic and funny with the added benefit of me personally enjoying her character I wish it was far less overbearing. Then again the first portion of the movie is so slow that without it there might be trouble paying attention.

The ending of the movie also felt very rushed. No lie that they get to Transylvania to rescue Janet and stop Dracula’s daughter within the last eight minutes of the film. I would have liked to see that portion far more drawn out with more action.

Still if you’re looking for another Vampire film from Universal’s catalog check this one out. It’s available as part of the Dracula Legacy collection or you could probably find it online.