Wednesday, June 24, 2015

¡Qué horror! 2015
Candidate #12

(March 2014)

The set-up: Aaron (feature debut director Patrick Brice) is a videographer-for-hire, who goes to work for Josef (Mark Duplass), without initially knowing any pertinent details other than how much the job’s worth, and that “discretion is appreciated.”

That’s really all you need to know too, and I’ll leave Mr. Brice himself to say why.

“I wholeheartedly agree that Creep is a better, more full experience the less you know going into it. We were really trying to make something that a large part of the enjoyment would be the discovery of the film itself.”

Suffice it to say that Creep is pretty much a two-man op. Or, at least, a two-man op with some invaluable help from Blumhouse maestro, Jason Blum.
Working from a rough treatment, Brice and Duplass went off to shoot a majority of the film, which, under the guiding hand of Blum (whose input was, in Brice’s words, meant “to make [Creep] marketable as a horror film”), has resulted in a piece that’s both disturbingly intimate, and intimately disturbing.

“If you want to see a movie like Creep it's because you have two very relationship-oriented filmmakers, guided by Jason Blum, so what you're going to get is a movie that does not follow all of those rules of what a horror movie is. When Jason saw this, he told us, I've seen every piece of shit found footage horror movie, because I'm the guy they came to, but he liked we were not horror filmmakers, that we got the performances right, the relationship dynamics right.”
--Mark Duplass

Parting Shot: As much as Creep impressed (and disturbed) me, I honestly don’t know how to feel about hearing there are plans for sequels…

(Creep OS courtesy of

Thursday, May 7, 2015

¡Qué horror! 2015
Candidate #11

(May 2014)

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
--T.S. Eliot

Premiering at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, It Follows utilizes the blasted zones and landscapes of economy-ravaged Detroit as the backdrop for a tale shrouded heavily under a veil of dread and unease.
While I will refrain from revealing the film’s premise (best to come into this one as cold and unknowing as possible), I will say that it’s the kind of cinematic experience that gets underneath the skin, that leaves the audience, post-viewing, acutely aware of anyone and everyone you see out on the streets, and the unnerving threat potential they represent.

Things of note that I choose to speak of, in lieu of What the Film is About:

1)      Along with the excellent thriller The Guest (from the director-writer tandem of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett*), It Follows is part of lead actress Maika Monroe’s resounding one-two punch on the face of the genre landscape. Keep an eye on this girl… Aside from appearing in The 5th Wave (J Blakeson’s long-awaited follow-up to The Disappearance of Alice Creed), she’s also going Big Time Hollywood in Independence Day 2!
2)     Though I have yet to see writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s feature debut, The Myth of the American Sleepover, based on what he displayed in It Follows, I’ve now become more curious to check it out.
3)     I particularly appreciated the Creepy Classroom Scene orchestrated to a reading of T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (along with some help from Richard Vreeland, AKA Disasterpeace). And speaking of Disasterpeace? The soundtrack for It Follows… Creeptastic awesome sauce!
4)     One of the most potent takeaways from It Follows: it's not so much that these kids have no future. Perhaps even more tragically, while they do have a future, it's a future that's going to be constantly weighed down by the dread and unease I mentioned earlier...

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
--T.S. Eliot

* Whose names should be familiar 'round these parts for their work on A Horrible Way To Die and V/H/S.

(It Follows UK quad & French OS courtesy of

Monday, March 2, 2015

¡Qué horror! 2015
Candidate #10

(November 2014)

"I loved how ballsy they were, issuing a trailer that said, ‘From the Master of Horror, Eli Roth.’”
--Eli Roth

Beginning its life cycle as one of those fake trailers that seem to be strewn all over YouTube, Jon Watts’ Clown is a nasty piece of work.
Helped along in its evolution into full-fledged feature by Eli Roth--who was billed as the film’s director in the initial fake trailer, and was suitably impressed, not just by the conceit, but by the makers’ cojones--Clown wastes no times before plunging into its simple but brutally effective premise: loving father turns into scary, evil supernatural creature thanks to a demonic clown costume.

There’s some solid cinematic storytelling here by Watts (in his feature debut), ably assisted by a cast that includes Awake’s Laura Allen and familiar genre face Peter Stormare.
It should also be noted that just beneath the onscreen horrors--right underneath the clown make-up, if you will--is the insidious and despicable real life horror of child predators, of the horrendous urges some individuals have, and their choice whether to struggle against them, or succumb.
So yeah, there’s some disturbing child endangerment (and fatalities) in this one, so be advised accordingly.

(Italian Clown OS courtesy of

Saturday, February 7, 2015

¡Qué horror! 2015
Candidate #9

(January 2014)

"I don't have to listen to you. You're just a cat."
"Well, a cat that can talk and reason, that’s a miracle for the ages.”
"So what?”
“But a guy who talks to his cat, well that’s one step away from the loony bin. Find someone else, kill them, and you’ll discover what it feels like to be truly alive.”

Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds) is the “new guy in Shipping” at Milton Fixture and Faucet International and outwardly, he seems the likeable sort. He lives alone above the shuttered Mellow Lanes bowling alley, and he’s doing “a great job” at work.
The thing is, he’s not taking the meds he’s supposed to be taking, and, as a result, he’s hearing the titular voices, apparently coming from his pets, Mr. Whiskers (the mean and nasty cat), and Bosco (the gruffly positive and supportive dog).
And, as you can probably tell from the above lines of dialogue, Mr. Whiskers starts telling Jerry to do some very dark and morally questionable things…

Marjane Satrapi, whose entry into the feature film world was via co-directing the adaptation of her own graphic novel Persepolis, takes the Black Listed screenplay by Michael R. Perry* and gives us what is, by and large, a very black comedy shot through with some dreadful, horrific moments, and some potent emotional weight.
And that’s all topped off with a pretty gonzo climax which segues into a pretty gonzo (yet oddly moving, given the context) end credits sequence.

Reynolds (who also provides the voices of Mr. Whiskers and Bosco, among others) does an excellent job at portraying a troubled yet sympathetic character who, over the course of the film, does some very dark and terrible things. And he’s backed up by a commendable supporting cast that includes Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, and Jacki Weaver.
Oh, and props go out to Cairo and Hamish, for embodying Mr. Whiskers and Bosco.

As with many a ¡Q horror! title before it, The Voices is not for everybody, but if you like your horror laced with some strong black comedy (or vice versa), then you should really check it out.

“The medication, it smooths things out, and that’s okay, right? But even though there are bad moments…”
“Very bad moments.”
“Very bad. There are also moments of inspiration and beauty, when all the world makes sense, and the elegant secret mechanics of Man and God are revealed in their many dimensions, and the universe is laid out before mine eyes and it is a blessed place.”
“You totally stopped taking the pills, didn’t you?”

* The Voices took the number 3 slot on the 2009 Black List, a mere two votes behind Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for The Social Network. (For the uninitiated, the Black List is an annual year-end rundown of the most notable as-yet unproduced screenplays as voted for by a variety of executives in the Hollywood film industry.)

(The Voices OS’ courtesy of

Monday, November 24, 2014

¡Qué horror! 2015
Candidate #8

(March 2014)

After barging onto the ¡Q horror! 2012 rundown with Penumbra, Argentinian director Adrián García Bogliano is back with his English language feature debut, Late Phases, working off a script written by Eric Stolze.
Here, Nick Damici plays retired US Army officer Ambrose McKinley, who has only just moved into the Crescent Bay Retirement Community, when he is rudely made aware that something beastial seems to be active in the area, something that seems to have a monthly cycle…
So, yes, no need to be coy, it’s all over the trailer and the one sheet below: werewolf.

The beauty of Late Phases is, it doesn’t quite play like any werewolf film I’ve seen.
True, it’s got the familiar horror movie trope of the protagonist who seems to be the only one aware of the nature of the threat, but Damici’s crotchety (and blind) McKinley isn’t your average misunderstood horror movie lead.
With some excellent supporting performances by Ethan Embry and Tom Noonan, a practically unrecognizable Lance Guest, brief appearances by Dana Ashbrook and Larry Fessenden (also one of the film’s producers), and some noteworthy creature effects courtesy of Robert Kurtzman’s Creature Corps, Late Phases is a solid entry in the annals of werewolf cinema, which, let’s face it, needs a whole lot more of this kind of title to beef up its hairy, lupine ranks.

(Late Phases OS’ courtesy of

Sunday, November 23, 2014

¡Qué horror! 2015
Candidate #7

(October 2014)

The following film includes a partly edited medical documentary, outtakes, and surveillance footage from the scenes of the crime.

Adam Robitel’s feature debut takes the real life horror of Alzheimer’s disease and mashes that up with some supernatural goings on to produce a potent title in The Taking of Deborah Logan.
Here, medical student Mia Hu (Neighbours’ Michelle Ang) sets about centering her PHD Thesis film on the titular Deborah Logan (All My Children’s Jill Larson), hoping to document the effects of the disease, not just on Logan, but on her daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsay, from Mad About You and The Secret Life of the American Teenager), as well.

While there are some heavy hitters in the mix here (the film is produced by Bryan Singer--the closing credits actually declare it a “Bryan Singer Presents” production) and some familiar genre figures are thanked in the end credits roll (Bryan Cranston, Guillermo del Toro, Michael Dougherty, James Wan, to name some) the onscreen MVPs here are definitely Larson and Ramsay, who ground the proceedings in a very real mother-daughter relationship, warts and all.

“I do all my little puzzles. I do crosswords. I’m lifting weights. I am doing everything that I… I have read will help to stave off the progression of this disease. Stave it off! There’s no cure. And so, when I am in the middle of something and suddenly, my mind just… leaves the premises…. There are no words to describe how distressing it is.”

Much of the potency of the film is rooted in the awful deterioration that sets in with Alzheimer’s, and as the narrative unspools, there are shades of The Exorcist, in that we are also witness to the horror when modern medicine finds itself unable to deal with a patient’s condition, when the doctors are just as in the dark as the besieged victim and family.
There is also at least one instance of a quick cut “subliminal,” again, ala The Exorcist.
Admittedly, the title mines all that it can from the horror movie idea of the Creepy Old Lady, which is sadly quite unfair to all the Nice Little Old Ladies out there, but the end result is nonetheless an effective little found footage-y humdinger.

(The Taking of Deborah Logan OS courtesy of

Sunday, November 16, 2014

¡Qué horror! 2015
Candidate #6

(March 2014)

So you're an actor. You can become other people. But can you be yourself? Can you put your inner being on the screen? Then come try out for Celeste, a young up and coming actor in our Tinsel Town terror tale: The Silver Scream.

It’s that notice that aspiring actress-slash-Taters Girl Sarah Walker (Alexandra Essoe) answers which leads her right up to the gateway to fame and stardom.
But does she have what it takes to step through that gateway? Is she willing to embrace all that she is, deep down inside, in order to ascend into the firmament of the Hollywood elite?

Starry Eyes--written and directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer--takes a look at the idea of how Hollywood can really change a person, through the lens of the horror film.
Shot over the course of 18 days (with an additional 3 days of re-shoots), it’s a remarkable achievement that is a disturbing look at the entertainment industry.
And given that central idea of transformation and its ultimate costs, La La Land is the perfect setting for the narrative. A toxic environment where people reinvent themselves every day, where dreams are shredded and shattered every single hour. Where desperation is the drug of choice, mainlined by every waiter and limo driver and physical trainer, each and every one of them aspiring actors or writers or actor-slash-writers, all just waiting, yearning, for that Big Break.
It’s a film that asks, quite pointedly, how much are you willing to pay, how far are you willing to go, to answer the siren song of your ambitions.

“Sarah, if you can’t really let yourself go, how can you ever transform into something else?”

(Starry Eyes OS’ courtesy of &