Category Archives: Horror Movies

Movie Review: ‘Get Out’

When I first saw the trailer for “Get Out,” I was hooked on the idea of a racially explicit horror movie. I had already written a script in my head of what I had expected to see. I took for granted that this would be a wry and revealing look at how African Americans can still be seen as the Other. And that is definitely there. We also have the opposite where it is those who are subjugating who are seen in the same way, as some menacing Other. And I expected some dark comedy mixed in. With all that in mind, I wondered, not if, but how far this movie would cross the line.

What “Get Out” does best is keeping to a true horror movie pace, gradually building up. Instead of a frog that is in a pot of water gradually set to boil, we’re all expecting a black man to be boiled alive, so to speak. No, there are no black men being boiled–just a metaphor. In fact, there are far more gruesome things up ahead. The remarkable thing is that there is a certain level of restraint that allows writer/director Jordan Peele to navigate deeper into our collective racial history than some of us out there are ready to go.

The opening scene alone is loaded with plenty of food for thought. An African American young man is walking through an upscale, and presumably white, neighborhood. He is talking on the phone and joking with his friend that he’s lost in what he calls with a whiny accent, “the suburbs.” As he proceeds down streets with tony- sounding names like “Peacock Street,” a white sports car pulls up blaring an old 1930’s song, “Run, Rabbit, Run,” a sly reference to the classic WASP novel, “Rabbit, Run,” by John Updike. The young man attempts to avoid the car by walking in the other direction. Ultimately, he can’t help walking towards the car whereupon he’s knocked out and thrown in the car’s trunk.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya)

We next see an interracial couple preparing for a trip. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), are about to meet Rose’s parents. Chris is hesitant and Rose asks him what’s the matter. Chris asks Rose if she mentioned to her parents that he’s black. Rose laughs it off and reassures him that’s it’s not an issue at all. It’s a tender moment. It shows that Chris is vulnerable while Rose is far more in control of the situation. The acting is quite believable. Rose seems clearly in love with Chris. But the focus leans towards Chris as we see events through his eyes. He’s convinced he’s entering the lion’s den and we easily sympathize.

The focus never leaves Chris and, once they arrive at the family estate nestled in the woods, the attention heaped upon Chris grows. It begins with the first meet-the-parents round. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener make for deliciously out-of-touch parents attempting to be hip. If only that was all that lay in store for our hero. Red flags go up one by one. There’s a quick aside by the dad, “Oh, that room leads to the basement. We closed it up due to a buildup of black mold.” Yikes, in the context of a horror movie, that says it all.

Things are gonna keep steadily getting freaky from here on out. And so they do, some artful and some more in line with standard-issue tropes. One horror chestnut, the comedy relief sidekick buddy, is given new life and put to fine use here. Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams, one of TSA’s finest, adds another dimension to the narrative. While he may rob the movie of some of its more provocative and scary potential, that seems to be the right approach for a project that is unleashing so many racial issues. Overall, we end up with a number of compelling scenes and images without resorting to a heavy hand.

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Filed under Horror, Horror Movies, Movie Reviews, movies, Race, Race Relations, Racism, Satire

Movie Preview: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS in Wide Release

the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-mr-carey

“The Girl with All the Gifts,” a novel by M.R. Carey, caused quite a sensation when it was first published in 2014. I have read it and quickly found it to be inventive, something of a game changer to the zombie genre. Well, the movie adaptation became a smash hit in the UK when it was released in 2016. And now it invades its way to a wide release: on DirecTV January 26th and in select theaters and On Demand February 24th.

Kudos to Mike Carey for writing the screenplay to his novel!

Melanie (Sennia Nanua)

Melanie (Sennia Nanua)

The synopsis:

The near future: humanity has been all but destroyed by a fungal disease that eradicates free will and turns its victims into flesh eating “hungries”. Only a small group of children seem immune to its effects. At an army base in rural England, this group of unique children are being studied and subjected to cruel experiments. But one little girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua), stands out from the rest.

When the base falls, Melanie escapes along with Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton), Sergeant Parks (Paddy Considine), Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) and two other soldiers. Against the backdrop of a blighted Britain, Melanie must discover what she is and ultimately decide both her own future and that of the human race.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is directed by Colm McCarthy and written by Mike Carey. The distributor is Saban Films, Lionsgate. Visit the movie’s Facebook page right here.

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Filed under Horror, Horror Movies, movies, Zombies

Movie Review: ‘Yoga Hosers’

"Yoga Hosers" by Kevin Smith

“Yoga Hosers” by Kevin Smith

On his deathbed, Kevin Smith will say, “Clerks,” and die with a smile on his face. For now, he is content with giving us his latest movie treat, “Yoga Hosers,” both written and directed by him. This will please any diehard Kevin Smith fan and may puzzle quite a few critics pondering the director’s vision and legacy. Quite the prankster, I am quite happy to chalk this up as Mr. Smith just having some fun. If I try to read into it, perhaps I can see him saying something about the state of Hollywood. There’s a scene where the villain (hilarious performance by Ralph Garman) asks if he might be taken more seriously if he were to speak in the melodious tones of Al Pacino. He then goes on to do a spot on impersonation as he describes his diabolical plans to kill off all the critics who have savaged his art. This could be interpreted as Smith saying that if only he were to play the game, then he would be taken more seriously.

I got to thinking that maybe Kevin Smith is right about how he’s been unfairly treated by critics. I’m just thinking here but consider the fact that Kevin Smith’s breakout hit, “Clerks” and Quentin Tarantino’s breakout hit, “Pulp Fiction,” both came out in 1994. This is nothing against Mr. Tarantino but I would argue that he and Mr. Smith are more alike than not. One director got the adulation of critics as his career progressed; while the other got a very hard time by the critics as his career progressed. The end result is that Tarantino finds himself in a very good place. And Smith finds himself the underdog. It’s worth considering this and might add to the enjoyment of this rather bizarre yet compelling film. It’s that special blend of Kevin Smith weird. And maybe he needs to keep doing what he’s doing.

Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp

Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp

“Yoga Hosers” is connected to Smith’s previous film, “Tusk” so he’s on a roll with his experiments in comedy/horror mashup. And there will be at least one more, “Moose Jaws,” rounding out Smith’s True North trilogy. For those of you who missed 2014’s “Tusk,” that proved to be quite unusual and not without some fairly gruesome moments in the spirit of Tarantino. That film had quite an edge to it. This time around, the gore has been rolled back but there’s an interesting sense of tension that Smith plays with especially early in this story that centers on two teenage friends, both with the first name of Colleen, thus they are known as The Two Colleens. The two work at the Eh-2-Zed, a convenience store owned by the father of Colleen Collette (played by Lily-Rose Depp). The other Colleen is Colleen McKenzie (played by Harley Quinn Smith). It’s pretty miserable for them being clerks. And the fact that the dad who owns the Eh-2-Zed is dating the store’s manager does not sit well at all with his daughter. Lots of domestic despair depicted with good comedic timing. It’s as if Smith knew he could have continued along that route but then decided to give his critics the finger and unleash his theater of the absurd.

You can give Smith credit for his abrupt shifts in tone. I fondly remember that moment in “Tusk” when Justin Long pleads not to die a horrible death. And then there’s a pause. And he ends his sentence with “…in Canada.” That was a genuinely masterful example of the comedy/horror mashup that Smith was going for. In “Yoga Hosers,” he not only doubles down but ratchets up the silliness with a bunch of menacing little sausage Nazis. The plot involves the untold story of Canada’s Nazi past–and this involves sausages. If critics want to give Smith a hard time, then he’s going to make them sit through a free screening involving little sausage Nazis. The fans will love it. The trilogy will one day be complete. The rarefied pompous hypocritical critics get the finger. Everyone wins.

That said, if you view the trailer, you’ll get a sense of how this film is actually more substantial than it may seem at first. Again, I go back to the idea of shifting tones, or shifting viewpoints. Part of the film is simply a heartfelt satire of high school life. The Two Colleens are sweet absent-minded girls who happen to love yoga. Thus the title to this film.

If you enjoyed “Tusk” or were curious about it but want to avoid some disturbing content, then go see “Yoga Hosers.” Justin Long is in it and he provides some impressive extended comedic bits as a yoga guru. Johnny Depp reprises his role as inspector Guy Lapointe to great effect. Both Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith are quite charming and show promise. Both have the sensibility and grace to pursue acting careers. And then you have Kevin Smith who portrays all the itty bitty Bratzis. Oh, and a cameo by Stan Lee as a police dispatcher! Overall, Smith turns the teenage horror flick up on its head and provides some good laughs. Amid so many Hollywood, and indie, cookie-cutter films, I want to see Mr. Smith continue making movies. He’s going out on a limb with his wacky Canadian horror/comedy trilogy but that’s fine by me.

Find out more and where to see the film by going to Kevin Smith’s Smodcast right here.

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Filed under Comedy, Hollywood, Horror, Horror Movies, Kevin Smith, Movie Reviews, movies, Satire

DVD Review: HOURS

Paul Walker Hours

“Hours” is a film that has an offbeat dynamic and unusual level of suspense that brings to mind something like Steven Spielberg’s “Duel.” There are elements of horror to this and, much like “Duel,” this is a story about a man, out of his element, forced to keep his wits and survive. One added wrinkle: our hero, Nolan (played by Paul Walker), has just lost his wife, Abigail (played by Genesis Rodriguez) while she was giving birth during Hurricane Katrina. More to the wrinkle: Nolan ends up being left behind while everyone at the hospital evacuates. He must remain with his premature baby who will need a ventilator for the next 48 hours, thus the title, “Hours.” And we’re just getting started.

It was Richard Matheson who perfected a thinking man’s horror with such work as “I Am Legend” and “The Shrinking Man.” These stories pivot upon a lone man in a life or death situation, at war with his environment–whether it’s vampires or giant spiders. The situation begins dire and gets more and more complicated. Does the character even have a decent chance of survival? No, so his life keeps flashing before him, and his senses sharpen, as he contends with one gut-wrenching challenge after another. That’s exactly what is happening in “Hours.” This 2013 film is the directorial debut for Eric Heisserer who is a writer on the rise in Hollywood. This film is his first opportunity to direct one of his scripts and you sense that attention to detail, to composition, and consistency. Nolan is totally trapped in the fight of his life–and his newborn daughter.

There is an undeniable added layer of significance with the acting talents of Paul Walker who sadly passed away in 2013. At the heart of this film is a story about how to respond to a disaster. Paul Walker was part of a relief team responding to the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010. That led him to found Reach Out WorldWide (ROWW), an organization of skilled volunteers responding to post-disaster situations. That energy and commitment is indelibly marked on every frame of this engaging film.

You’ll be seeing a lot more of Eric Heisserer’s work in the coming months. One fine example is “Lights Out,” screenplay by Heisserer, out in theaters 22 July 2016 (USA). And, you better believe it, this looks like a really scary horror movie. Currently, Denis Villeneuve is directing Heisserer’s Black List script “Story of Your Life” for Paramount Pictures, starring Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams. “Story of Your Life,” is a sci-fi thriller based on the short story by acclaimed author Ted Chiang.

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Filed under Disaster, Disaster Movies, Eric Heisserer, Horror, Horror Movies, Movie Reviews, movies, New Orleans, Paul Walker, Richard Matheson, Steven Spielberg

DVD Review: MAPS TO THE STARS

Mia Wasikowska gets inspired on Hollywood Boulevard.

Mia Wasikowska gets inspired on Hollywood Boulevard.

David Cronenberg gets to thoroughly explore hallucinations, one of his favorite themes (see 1983’s Videodrome), in his latest film, “Maps to the Stars.” It’s those things you think you see that may turn out to be most real of all. Hollywood comes under scrutiny in a most diabolical way as we follow the steady disintegration of the film’s characters. And, among the doomed players, no one is more set for destruction than Agatha Weiss (played by Mia Wasikowska).

The screenplay by Bruce Wagner offers up a delicious send-up to the entertainment industry, its nefarious machinations, and dehumanizing power. Everyone is quite sick in the head here. And the cure is surely not to be found from a Dr. Phil parody, Dr. Stafford Weiss (played John Cusack). It’s his family that is at the epicenter to the disaster that awaits. And it is his daughter Agatha who, upon her arrival to Los Angeles, brings back all the ugliness and chaos to a family in crisis. At 18, she can no longer be held at bay in some Florida rehab clinic. All the chickens have come home to roost.

Cronenberg gives LA the treatment: No one can function naturally in Los Angeles. Everyone has a scheme. Everyone is afraid. Everyone seeks the artificial light. They zig and zag from swank homes to movie sets to Rodeo Drive. Everything being relative, a breakfast burrito can suddenly become the most prized possession, at least for a moment. Nothing shines for long in LA.

At the heart of the Weiss family is the younger child, Benjie Weiss (played by Evan Bird). In contrast to his father’s role as a therapist, Benjie, at 13, is an unstable child actor close to going down in flames. His dad, however, is not too far away from burning out himself as his practice is more of a carnival sideshow than anything serious. Rounding out the family circle is Christina Weiss (played by Olivia Williams). Her stage mother is on similar shaky ground.

Maps-to-the-Stars-David-Cronenberg

The catalyst, and the destroyer, is Agatha. Wasikowska commands the screen with exceptional creepiness. It is comparable to Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom in “Nightcrawler.” Through a series of insinuations, she manages to stake out a decent vantage point to the proceedings as a personal assistant to a fading movie actress, Havana Segrand (played by Julianne Moore). And Segrand proves a perfect match as she’s as crazed as Agatha in her own way. For one thing, she keeps battling with hallucinations of her mother, Clarice Taggart (played by Sarah Gadon). And she is certainly not alone when it comes to seeing things.

As a comeuppance, Benjie is spooked by what seems like the ghost of a young girl he was rude to during a publicity stop at a hospital. Benjie has been a very bad boy and yet he struggles with that. Old and jaded way beyond his years, he will often display poignant self-awareness. Bird delivers an impressive performance. And, while he may not be the star of the film in terms of name recognition, he clocks in a lot of screen time and proves to be the essential counterpoint to Agatha.

Another result of Agatha’s sly maneuvering is her dating a handsome aspiring actor with a day job as a chauffeur, Jerome Fontana (played by Robert Pattinson). This is Pattinson’s second Cronenberg film (see 2012’s Cosmopolis) and he makes the most of it. Playing a far less capable actor than himself, Pattinson presents for us, in his pivotal role, the perfect stooge and the perfect cad. Without a hint of irony, he says that he sees becoming a Scientologist as a good career move. He provides a fine example of how lost everyone is in this story while, at the same time, how aware everyone is of what they bargained for.

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Filed under Hollywood, Horror, Horror Movies, Los Angeles, Movie Reviews

Movie Review: ‘The Babadook’

The-Babadook-Essie-Davis

In “The Babadook,” the bogeyman in this movie is especially frightening, on a level that will have you wrestling with your own demons. And you never really see it. Even though you do. As fast as you may find yourself on the verge of exposing a trusty horror movie trope, this film moves faster. It certainly doesn’t shirk from one of the biggest tropes of them all: the conflict between being normal versus being different.

What if that troubled little boy, Samuel, could just get with the program and act normally? Maybe there’s some medication he could take to control him? But what if medication is far from what is needed here? Samuel (played by Noah Wiseman) has a compelling answer to that as the film’s focus, its lightning rod.

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Movie Review: ‘Blood Ransom’ Starring Anne Curtis and Alexander Dreymon

Anne-Curtis-Blood-Ransom-2014

“Blood Ransom” is a slow burn crime thriller that fearlessly takes on the whole vampire genre. As if oblivious to “Twilight,” this vampire love story is a noir-tinged offbeat adventure harking back to the ’70s. It’s got your basic adreniline-fuled plot, vampire gang vs. the one guy who might make a difference, plus a bunch of quirky twists. And much of what makes this work is a strong cast, starring Alexander Dreymon, as the lone wolf hero, in love with Anne Curtis, as the mysterious vampire vixen.

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Horror Movies 2014: THE BABADOOK Arrives November 28, 2014 (Theatrical and VOD); October 30 (DirectTV)

The-Babadook-IFC-Midnight

Editor’s Note: Read my review of “The Babadook” right here.

IFC Midnight has got you covered for Halloween and beyond with a new genre film called THE BABADOOK.

Kim Newman, of EMPIRE MAGAZINE, describes it as, “one of the strongest, most effective horror films of recent years – with awards-quality lead work from Essie Davis, and a brilliantly-designed new monster who could well become the break-out spook archetype of the decade.”

The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival Midnight Section and it absolutely terrified audiences ever since. The film is a psychological thriller in the tradition of Polanski’s classic domestic horror (Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, Repulsion). In addition, The BABADOOK just won the “Best Horror Feature, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Actress” Awards at the 2014 Fantastic Fest. The film is coming out theatrically on November 28th but it also has an exclusive debut with Direct TV starting October 30th so Direct TV subscribers will have a chance to catch the film in their home on Halloween!

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Horror Movies 2014: ‘Blood Ransom’ Starring Anne Curtis and Alexander Dreymon to Premiere in L.A. on October 28, 2014

Anne-Curtis-Blood-Ransom-LA-Premiere

We all love a good horror movie. Keep an eye out for “Blood Ransom,” which will hit select theaters on Halloween in North America, Friday, October 31, 2014.

“Blood Ransom” will have its premiere in L.A. at Arclight Hollywood, 6360 W Sunset Blvd, on October 28, 2014, at 8pm. It stars Alexander Dreymon (American Horror Story: Coven & BBC America series The Last Kingdom), Philippine’s #1 actress & People Asia’s National Sweetheart, Anne Curtis.

Blood Ransom tells the story of Jeremiah, caught in the middle of an ill-fated plot to kidnap Crystal, his boss Roman’s beautiful young girlfriend. If that isn’t complicated and dangerous enough, there are some pretty fierce vampires to deal with too.

For more information, visit the Blood Ransom website here.

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