Archive for April, 2011

Scream 4 (2011)

Posted in Scream 4 (2011) [Dave J. Wilson] on 21/04/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

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The House of the Devil (2009)

Posted in The House of the Devil (2009) [Matthew Nadbrzuch] on 21/04/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

Wow. That sums up my feelings concerning Ti West’s “The House of the Devil”. This movie should be viewed as a master class in creating an effective horror film without relying on gore and gaudy jump scares. Its greatest asset is that its actually scary, as opposed to revolting, and sticks in your psyche long after the end credits are gone. Adding to the fun, the movie’s aesthetics and atmospherics are meant to emulate the horror films of the early 1980s, something it accomplishes splendidly. This is all the more impressive given that director West only has three completed features to his name.

“House of the Devil” concerns Samantha (Jocelin Donahue), a (what else?) college student who is in need of some quick cash to use towards first month’s rent on a new apartment. She spots an ad on campus for a (what else?) babysitting job. Along with her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig), Samantha drives to the house where the ad originated, and Mr. Ulman (Tom Noonan), whose peculiarities disturb both Sam and Megan, greets her there. Mr. Ulman reveals he doesn’t actually need a babysitter, but someone who will take care of his elderly mother while he and Mrs. Ulman drive off to watch that night’s lunar eclipse. Sam tries to leave at this point, but Mr. Ulman’s offer to increase her pay for the night convinces her to stay. Megan begrudgingly drives off, promising to pick Sam up in the morning. Sam begins to explore the house, and discovers there’s much more than an old lady afoot.

The pacing of “House of the Devil” has been described by some as “slow”, a statement with which I wholeheartedly disagree. It’s true that the movie utilizes a slow build. For more than an hour, nothing revelatory happens aside from Sam searching the nooks and crannies of the Ulman’s unnerving home. This is why the narrative works so well, however. We are kept guessing when something will happen to a point where the tension becomes almost unbearable; akin to a spring which is coiled to its breaking point. When the pendulum finally swings though, we are not disappointed.

Credit must also be given to Ti West and crew for so convincingly re-creating the look and feel of the movie’s place in time. All the details are present, from Megan’s feathered, Farrah Fawcett-esque hairstyle, to the vintage rotary phones. The soundtrack also includes several nods to the 80s, including a taste of The Fixx’s “One Thing Leads to Another.” In addition, the film stock itself is given a grainy retro look. However, all this retro trickery does not function as a tongue-in-cheek exercise to satiate the skinny jeans and irony crowd. It comes from a director who possesses a great deal of reverence and knowledge of the horror genre, and seeks to create something that will become as venerated by horror fans as some of the movies he is emulating.

Matthew Nadbrzuch

out of 

©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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The Wicker Man (1973)

Posted in The Wicker Man (1973) [Matthew Nadbrzuch] on 01/04/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

I like to think of “The Wicker Man” as the greatest Hammer film never actually produced by the venerable studio. Despite the fact that it was in decline, Hammer was still the foremost name in British horror cinema at the time of the movie’s release. While it was originally distributed by British Lion Film Corporation, “The Wicker Man” shares Hammer’s penchant for beautiful landscapes, lush production values, and its franchise star Christopher Lee, who portrayed Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Mummy in numerous films for the studio.

The movie concerns Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward), a Scottish police officer who visits the nearby island of Summerisle to investigate a report of a missing girl. The devoutly Christian Howie finds a place that has abandoned its roots in that religion, and transitioned to the Pagan beliefs of the residents’ forebears. Howie is frustrated by both the belief system of the islanders (including the aforementioned Lee as their leader, Lord Summerisle), and their efforts to dissuade him from finishing his assignment of finding the girl. The end of his search is a shock for both Howie and the audience, and reveals the meaning of the film’s enigmatic title.

While “The Wicker Man” functions wonderfully on its surface merits, it also works as an allegory for the dangers of religion taken to its extremes, as evidenced by both the residents of Summerisle and Sgt. Howie. The residents are brainwashed into believing an assortment of archaic nonsense, including the idea that sacrifice to their gods will improve the health of the island. Howie sees himself as a bastion of civilization, who is tasked to enlighten the “heathens”. His ultimate fate is, at first thought, a result of the beliefs of the misguided islanders. Upon further contemplation, however, it is clear that Howie’s own rigid belief system is responsible for bringing him face to face with “The Wicker Man”.

Matthew Nadbrzuch

out of

©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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CRAWLER’S CHAOS: Parents (1989)

Posted in Parents (1989) Creepy Crawler on 01/04/2011 by Dave J. Wilson

The opening minutes of this late 80’s classic are sheer apple pie family perfection, with a jolly tune as the Laemle family move into a perfect little town complete with BBQs, baking, and skipping kids; the whole nine yards. To add to the quaint feel the movie is set in the 1950’s.

Mum and Dad are very happy, very very happy, but what you notice about their son, Michael, is that he doesn’t talk and looks quite nervous of even his parent’s most loving gestures. Saying that, the father (Randy Quaid) has an unusual way of cheering his son up when scared of the dark – “Every where’s dark at night”, and then explains how the worst darkness is in the head. A rather touching moment; for some reason Michael has bad dreams. The first day at his new school, he tells the class about boiling a cat and skinning it in great detail, and also befriends a girl who claims she’s from the moon… bless her. He wants to stay at her house immediately. Another thing worth noting is that he refuses to eat meat or any food for that matter, but his parents smile all the same. Asked to draw his family in school, he adds a lot of crayon blood to the pic. Mrs Laemle (Mary Beth Hart) when discussing the picture ignores the school psychiatrist; she just smiles a lot and gives out shallow answers.

One morning whilst dad cooks sausages we suddenly have a glimpse of what’s inside them – it doesn’t look like pork or beef, or even Linda Mccartney’s veggie filler. The school psychiatrist interviews Michael about his artwork, and shows him a drawing of an average mum and dad in the bedroom pulling back the bed sheets: “What are they looking at?” Michael shakes visibly, “I’m scared.” Dad works at Toxico, combining chemicals and human test subjects; why we don’t know, but it makes for good viewing. As does a surreal sequence of Michael being attacked by long fresh sausages that snake around him as he stands in a cupboard for no reason whatsoever.

Michael and Sheila (the moon girl) are caught by dad messing about in the freezer – a place he’s strictly never meant to go, and dad gives him a really creepy long speech about, well, see for yourself. “How do you know what your daddy does every day?” asks Sheila. So, Michael sneaks into Toxico and into ‘The Division of Human Testing’, and sees daddy at work with tables of corpse like test subjects as he stands there cutting pieces from them. Later he drives home with bags of ‘laundry’ in the back of his car. Michael’s suspicions are confirmed one night when he finds a severed leg hanging in the cellar. The psychiatrist grills him; he’s scared to tell, so returns home with Michael… then the fun begins.

Directed by Bob Balaban, his film allows the characters to grow steadily and we get little clues to what’s to come. It doesn’t use needless violence or gore to get the point across, though when it happens it packs a nice punch. The cast are spot on, the kids play their parts well, but it’s Randy Quaid who shines; he is exceptional, as effective as Terry O’ Quinn in The Stepfather. My horror soulmate said after she viewed this movie that she wanted to become a vegetarian – she’s serious about it! A very effective film indeed.

out of

©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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