Monday, July 18, 2016

THE WITCH





I'd like to keep this short, sweet, and to the very sharp point.

I loved THE VVITCH.  Loved it.

What happens when a family is asked to leave their township and moves a day away into the woods of New England 1630?

Failing crops. Family tragedy. Darkness.

This film reminded me of HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, THE INNKEEPERS and IT FOLLOWS. A slow burning film with so much to take in. Sadly, the marketing department tried to sell this film as some sort of jump-scare filled roller coaster horror ride, but it's so much more.


The survival issues that the family has to face are horrific enough. Issues of faith and loss of faith, having food to eat, and figuring out just what they are willing to give up when the situation gets dire - all of these are amazing to watch in and of themselves and would have made an interesting film by themselves.

However, the addition of this other worldly, supernatural element - that may or may not be there, really...  That really adds a whole other level of grim to this tale.

Evidently, the film was shot with only the use of candle, fire, or daylight with no additional lighting used and it really shows. It never reaches that, "Wait...I can't see!" moment, but it always seems gray and sad and grim. Loved that. 

The film really gave me the creeps, to be honest. In that "in the bones" way. I was washing dishes and - even though I heard nothing and saw nothing - I still had this feeling that something was outside of the window...out in the dark...just watching. THAT was my take away with this movie. You need to break out of the in your face horror standard and really put yourself into the shoes of a family with no electric light on the brink of starvation who are miles away from anyone with something looming in their world that means them all harm.

THAT...is horrifying to me.



Now, the "bad part".  Oh, not bad for me, but bad for some.


This film isn't your "direct" horror. There are no blood soaked, nude or masked entities with knives. There are no monsters. No openly, overly underscored jump and BOO! moments in here. And, I loved that. You simply watch as this religious family's dynamic changes and stare in horror as things get...really bad. To me, that was wondrous and it left me with this sense of dread and true, to the bone horror that I loved. FAR more scary that say a SAW or GREEN INFERNO. It hit home for me as a Father as well. 

I've also heard that people had a hard time with the dialogue seeing as it's in proper, 1630s style. I didn't have an issue with it, but if people do, they can always turn on subtitles. It really wasn't that challenging. 

 


My one regret is that I didn't watch this in the winter time - in the cold and the dark. I'll be revisiting this film around that season for sure.




Check out THE VVITCH if you have not already. It's a grand film.

Darling





Here I am, 24 hours after viewing the film DARLING and I'm still not sure if I liked it or not. So strange. The film washed over me and left a mark for sure, but to say I liked or didn't like it...it's difficult. It stays with you.

The film is simple. The lovely Lauren Ashley Carter plays Darling who is starting as a house sitter for a beautiful, huge house. The house as a bit of a history, but it's nothing to be too concerned about. It's not long before noises are heard and the sanity of the young, darling Darling...is in question.









There's nothing really new here, however it's super interesting and presented well. That's certain. The film is beautifully shot. Lauren Ashley Carter's ::::swoon::: performance is grand and creepy. She walks the nutter line expertly. She's a beauty and it's fun to see her transform from a shy, doe-like little girl into a grown woman with a serious problem. The film is presented in chapters, so we are given a sort of "heads up" before a few of the major sections. It's also filled with odd visuals and some flashing, seizure inducing lights from time to time that add to the overall WTF of the film. hehehe  We're given time to follow Darling in her decent into being...in really deep...and it's a fun journey. A journey filled with creepy soundscapes as well. The film's score is adds to the creep factor in a wondrous way.

I really enjoy  Mickey Keating 's work. His direction and writing is always simple and refined. And, above all, interesting. As with his other film POD, the ace is slow and steady. And, like it was a tank, it slowly and steadily moves forward with a sort of heavy force that is unstoppable. I love that. 

The film is very similar to Polanski's REPULSION. As with Catherine Deneuve's character in the 1965 feature, this character of Darling slowly descends into a sort of madness that is very interesting to watch. It's really the performance that sells it. Lesser actresses would oversell the madness and it wouldn't be believable.   

Catherine Deneuve
The black and white helps sell the feel as well. I'm sure it's - again - in partial homage to Polanski's film. It really is a pretty film. We're also shown many buildings as the film moves on which i took as a reminder that New York is a huge city and Darling is just one of many people within it. Just how many people out there are alone....and loosing it. 

Brian Morvant and Sean Young were super strong in the film as well, though they were not in it much.  The whole of the film is front and center and she carries it wonderfully.


So, on reflection, it seems that I do like this film. It's stuck with me and I look back on scenes and the overall feeling of the film and it makes me want to watch it again. Check it out and let me know how you feel about it.

THEN, AFTER A RE-WATCH OF DARLING

Dang...I totally missed a key point on my first viewing of DARLING. Two things, really. Two things that changed my whole outlook on the film from "I think I liked it" to "I friggin love this film!"

On re-watch, I saw a few key things and that, in turn, made other key lines of dialogue change completely, which ended up filling in the holes that I had that were making me confused about the whole of it. After seeing what I saw, there was this wave of love I had for the film that was rather comical - including an actual, physical head slap with audible, "Oh....OH MAN!"

Seeing as this is a spoiler free review, I don't want to get into what those points were, but keep your eyes and ears open during the film. Don't stop to post things like, "Still digging DARLING - wonder how it will end..." or some such in the middle of it. (...which I'm pretty sure I did during one of these moments)

Like the titular Darling, I have completed my journey and arrive at the end of it a changed person. :)

FINAL VERDICT: I love DARLING. Fantastic film with many deep and dark levels. Solid!





Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Killer Reserved Nine Seats




I caught THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS on Amazon Prime recently and...wow...friggin strange. hehehehe
(Note: The film wasn't 100% in English - snapping into a few lines of Italian from time to time. Captions helped.)

We have a classic giallo setup here. A group of late night, post dinner party folks drive out to a theater owned by one of the folks at the party. They open up the theater and stroll in as one of the guests speaks to the fact that the theater is very old...with a history.

 
It's not long before things start going wrong. Large items drop from the ceiling, shadowy figures roam around backstage, and we start to see that the friends at the party all have things they hate about each other. When people start dying - in classic gialli style and following a series of illustrations that are part of the theater's dark past - they need to figure out who's behind the murderous acts...and who that strange man was that was talking about how old the theater was. It seems that no one knows who he was.

As things roll along, we get bits and pieces of the mystery, but we're never really given enough to put everything together until the very end. And, what an end it was. Pretty dern dark and strange.  The film also has one of the most odd and creepy villains I've seen - a crazy masked figure with crazy hair and eyebrows.



I enjoyed the film, though it's on my C LIST for giallo films - entertaining and fun, but very loose on plot and acting. It did have some amazing and dark visuals. The films poster art is one of the more grim moments and it's rather striking.

There are several upsides with the movie. We have the usual nude females as well as some grand "tough guy" moments that always make me laugh. When we really get rolling, the story becomes rather interesting, going from standard slasher to truly mysterious happenings. The theater setting is interesting which is good because the whole film is based there and we see A LOT of it. It never becomes a bore, however. There are several spots showcased high and low. And, as I've said, the murderous activities are well done.

My biggest downside with the film is the fact that you won't really be able to figure out the mystery and certain parts of the plot get muddy and silly from time to time. Looking back on it, I'm still not 100% sure what the heck was going on even after seeing it all play out! heheheh  It was forgivable, though. It was still a fun watch.


I liked Giuseppe Bennati's direction. Things seemed very kinetic and interesting more often than not. I want to see more of his work and I'm very excited to see if I can find his MARCOVALDO TV series - a book I love. (In English, of course.)  :)

Films like BAY OF BLOOD, DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA, and TENEBRE are still my go to, A LIST giallo films, but THE KILLER RESERVED NINE SEATS was a fun watch for sure. Check it.











Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Heir - Fantastic body horror creep fest!







I finally got the chance to see the deliciously goopy HEIR from 2015 and loved it. Where to begin?!

We have a cast of three in this odd, visual tale about a very disturbing meet up between a man, his son, and a very disturbing Bill Oberst Jr.  Something isn't right - we know that much, but exactly how wrong things are becomes shockingly apparent rather quickly. I don't want to say much more than that.

Robert Nolan's performance as the Father in the piece is grand as well. The pairing of Nolan - with a seemingly good nature and kindness in his eyes - with the snake-like menace that Oberst brings into play makes for a fantastic amount of tension and dread on screen. The acting really set this as a solid film.


The lack of a clearly defined "here's exactly what's happening" storyline may upset some, but the fact that the tale is woven far enough to let the viewer actively try to sort out what's going on made me very happy and reminded me of 1983's Cronenberg classic VIDEODROME in many ways - especially is amazing body horror packed into this 14 minute chiller.  There is clearly a huge backstory here and the fact that it's not handed to you was something that I found to be very interesting. "What the hell is up here?" It was grand to see such a well executed return of body horror within HEIR. It's well done and had my upper lip curled back in a sneer as I watched muttering a low, "Ewww...." under my breath. Ha! Fun stuff.



Richard Powell's writing and Direction is fluid and nightmarish. The visuals play out as the kinetic camerawork captures the events in a stylish, yet simple way. The viewer is allowed to float along as a witness to the strange events playing out without being subjected to an obnoxious, jump scare inducing score or overly jumpy camera moves.

I loved HEIR and can not wait to take in Powell's other short FAMILIAR soon.
(( I ended up watching it RIGHT after I posted this - I couldn't wait! ))

We really need a feature film!

HEIR TEASER https://youtu.be/mGqipCK6uQg





FAMILIAR made me squirm in my chair

 Dear......lawd!

Richard Powell comes through again with a 24 minute short called FAMILIAR - also known as the film that made me squirm in my seat! Now, this is a rare thing. It NEVER happens. I've seen so many horror films with so many disguising and disturbing visuals - from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST to SUSPIRIA, but nothing has had me squirming in my seat like Familiar did up to now!

John Dodd has a problem. He wants out of his marriage and has an exit strategy all worked out. However, things take an odd turn when his wife surprises him with some good news. And now, he needs to revise his strategy drastically. Again, I'll say no more for fear of spoiling...the surprise. :)







Robert Nolan's performance is stellar as this TELL-TALE HEART-like story unfolds. I honestly had no idea where things were going to go when it began, then felt like I was on a roller coaster that wasn't going to stop until it smashed into the ending after it really started rolling. Nolan's voice over and presence is like a messenger of doom - dark, foreboding, and grim. Astrida Auza's performance as John's wife Charlotte is grand as well. Sad and lonely and endearing.

Richard Powell's direction and story drags you into a horrid series of situations. You start out feeling like you are in on the game with the lead, but soon you realize that you're as out of control as he is and it's not going to end well. There are a few turns in the piece that I absolutely loved. They are handled with the skill of a surgeon and play out with perfection. 

And....body horror. Perfectly presented. With horrific results and chair squirming mastery. 

I loved Powell's HEIR as well. I'd love to see what he does with a feature length film.

Do yourself a favor and seek out Familiar, but don't watch or read anything else about it until after you see it. You'll be happy that you went into things cold.


AVAILABLE ON iTUNES




Friday, July 1, 2016

Horror Television when I was a kid

I remember that Saturdays were a big horror day for me as a kid. CREATURE FEATURES was the Holy Grail for me when I was younger. I had to make sure I got my rest during the day so I could keep my eyes open long enough to watch it.






First came THE LOVE BOAT - another fave of mine back in the day that reached the extreme high point when I actually met Charo when I was on a cruise! (She was super nice to me and my 13 year old or so self was in love with her at once.)











Then after the Love Boat was FANTASY ISLAND which was my gateway vehicle into the likes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE NIGHT GALLERY a bit later.







Then...if I managed to stay awake and look chipper, my parents would let me stay up for 
CREATURE FEATURES. This was the best thing in the world. The opening montage of horror goodness followed by the most excellent Bob Wilkins and his cigar with his fantastic, deadpan voice and blank stare.




The movies ranged from THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE to TWINS OF EVIL and never failed to fill me with glee. I still remember the version of TWINS OF EVIL they picked still having the nudity and me seeing the Collinson Twins'...delights...when I was very young and being thrilled by the sight. hehehe



I also stared in horror as the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD trailer was presented one night by ole Bob. The damn thing scared the crap out of me and still fills me with dread when I hear those discordant piano cords!



However, CREATURE FEATURES wasn't the only show in town. KTVU also had a few afternoon features that played horror that I loved as well. I still remember my Mother making popcorn in a big pot, putting it into a large bowl, then sitting with me to watch these old horror movies. We'd have a ball watching the likes of THEM, EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS, THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. So good. And, I'm still a fan of popcorn to this day. :)

There was one that I recall the visual for, but not the name of, where a man dressed in a white gorilla suit played music on a Victrola that was next to him on a little stand, then he'd do these odd little dances to begin the show. As the movie went on, he'd do little skits that were related to the movie, I believe.

There was the CHILLER DILLER movie that had another fantastic little 70s opening that I loved.



KBHK had the GHOULIE MOVIE in the 80s which was another good horror outlet. 



A lot of these sorts of shows went by the wayside with the advent of VHS and cable programming.  The idea of being able to go to the store and rent full movies to take HOME and watch was epic. I remember a friends parents actually purchasing the first VCR in the group and us flocking to his house for movie parties that would last all night.

When we all made VCR purchases, we would round robin the movie party location and make an effort to have one every two weeks or so.

A fantastic time to be a kid who loved horror. :)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Messiah of Evil



Wow. Messiah of Evil (1973) is one of those special films. It's really strange, really slow, but it somehow manages to hold your attention.

A woman ventures out to where her Father was living to try and locate him after he's gone missing. He's an artist and his home is full of his disturbing, modern art. The beautiful Marianna Hill plays her role as daughter Arletty to perfection as she drifts around trying to find her Father , but the town of Point Dune is a place that's far better to drive through than to stay in.

We have voice over from not only the woman searching for her Father, but the Father as well. There is SO MUCH talking in this film it's amusing. But, it's saving grace is the numerous creepy arse scenes within it. If you can hold out they are worth the wait.

Or, you can skim through and find them - that works as well. :::grin::








I actually watched the whole film and enjoyed the pace. Especially since I have a cold going. I needed a slow burn to keep me company for a while. If you like a slow burn 70s creeper, you really may enjoy Messiah.

If you have the time - and maybe some coffee to keep you awake - I recommend a SOMETHING IS WRONG IN TOWN TRIPLE BILL with Messiah of Evil, Carnival of Souls and the most awesome DEAD AND BURIED...my personal fave.



•• ADDING TO THIS POST AFTER LISTENING TO THE TERROR TRANSMISSIONS EPISODE ON THE FILM - http://terrortransmission.com/2012/06/15/ep70-messiah-of-evil/

 Well well, the TERROR TRANSMISSIONS podcast on this film was eye opening. The film ran into several snags along the way, starting with a budget set at a mere $100,000 which was then skimmed down to $85,000 due to some "interesting business practices". The original script wasn't shot in it's entirety. More financial issues saw that some of the footage was taken away. Just a perfect storm of production nightmares.

It all made more sense after hearing about these backstory dramas playing out. It makes me sad, really. The described additions would have really changed the film.

That being said, here it is 24 hours later and I'm still thinking about scenes and characters. I do believe that if you are a fan of 70s horror, Italian style horror, or films like the aforementioned Carnival of Souls or Dead and Buried, you really need to see this film.





Watch in full below! :)