Tuesday, July 31, 2012

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 27

(March 2012)

While I’ve long been a self-avowed Jaume Balagueró slut, I’ve never been too keen on Paco Plaza’s Romasanta, so I really went in to the original [REC] on the strength of Balagueró’s past work.
Thus, when word first broke that Filmax would be wrapping up the [REC] saga with two films, I greeted the news with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I’d be getting double the action. But that realization was offset by the fact that the [REC] co-directors were splitting up, so Plaza would handle the third installment, Génesis, and Balagueró would take on the fourth and final chapter, Apocalypse; I was stoked to see that Balagueró would close the saga, but to get there, we’d have to cross Plaza’s Génesis first…
So I held my breath, hoped for the best.
And what do you know? I enjoyed this a hell of a lot better than Romasanta.

Imago Mortis’ Leticia Dolera and Diego Martín are Clara and Koldo, a young couple whose wedding reception becomes the scene of a full-on bloodbath, as one of the guests happens to have a connection to events that played offscreen in the original [REC].
Now, though not as somber and nerve-wrackingly straight-faced as the first two [REC] films, and foregoing the shakycam found footage approach at a certain point of its running time, Génesis is still a good entry, not just in the [REC] saga, but also in the annals of zombie cinema. (And yes, I know they’re not “zombies” per se, but this saga is nonetheless firmly ensconced in that section of horror cinema.)
Though I will go on the record as saying I still think the first two [REC] films are significantly better, Génesis still packs a potent emotional gutpunch, and has some stand-out moments of onscreen goreletting that shouldn’t disappoint.

And with that out of the way…
Onto Apocalypse

([REC]3 Génesis OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 26

(June 2007)

I’ve known about this one for awhile though only now have managed to catch up with it, and I must say, this one’s an interesting and excellent Lovecraft adaptation by director Dan Gildark, a piece that tries things and goes places that are foreign to other Lovecraft adaptations.
Take “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” as a foundation, then splice in some gay themes and strains of apocalypse cinema, and throw in Gus Van Sant stalwart Scott Patrick Green and the Tori Spelling, and you’ll have a vague notion of what’s in store for you in Cthulhu.
For my money, one of the best Lovecraft adaptations I’ve seen…

(Cthulhu OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 25

(July 2011)

Let’s get down to brass tacks: writer/director Scott Leberecht’s debut feature, Midnight Son, is an excellent vampire film, the sort of atypical bloodsucker title that I’ve always been predisposed to.
I waffled a bit on this, since the “horror” isn’t as apparent in it as in other ¡Qué Horror! candidates, and I thought I’d sneak this out of the ¡Qué Horror! madness (as I’ve done this year with titles like Steven C. Miller’s The Aggression Scale). Ultimately though, this is a horror movie (at least, to my way of thinking it is), so here it is, an official ¡Qué Horror! 2012 candidate.

As with Tomas Alfredson’s Låt Den Rätte Komma In, the centerpiece of Midnight Son is a burgeoning relationship between a human and a vampire, though in this case, it’s a decidedly adult relationship. There’s also the added complication of the vampire (Zak Kilberg’s Jacob) not even knowing what it is he’s becoming exactly.
There are muted strains of body horror in this, as Jacob gradually succumbs to the bizarre urges that are consuming him, which then neatly segue into vampirism as metaphor for addiction.

This may be the kind of vampire film that isn’t for everyone, but as I said before, I’m a (heh) sucker for atypical vampire films.
And let’s face it, these days, any vampire that doesn’t do the whole Sparkle Motion thing, that’s instantly a big plus in my book.
In addition, this has got Eduardo Sánchez (whose Altered and Seventh Moon I love and reviewed here at the Iguana, and whose Lovely Molly I’m so looking forward to) as one of its executive producers, and as I’ve also found myself to be predisposed to Sánchez’s post-Blair Witch films, it made putting Midnight Son up here an awesome doubleplusgood.

Parting shot: Speaking of doubleplusgood, I’m also so looking forward to what Leberecht chooses to direct next, as well as Sánchez’s Bigfoot movie, Exists.

(Midnight Son OS courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 24

(September 2011)

From down Argentina way, the Bogliano brothers, Adrián and Ramiro--also responsible for the ultra-stylish Sudor Frio (Cold Sweat)--bring us Penumbra, where Margarita (Cristina Brondo) is having a bad day, as a total solar eclipse comes creeping, the harbinger of terrible things for poor, put-upon Marga.
All she really wants to do is rent out an apartment and get back to Spain where she claims things are so much better than Buenos Aires, but circumstance and misunderstanding conspire to make her life difficult.

Marga’s a not-so likeable, not-really sympathetic lead, and there’s a certain amount of perverse pleasure in seeing her discomfiture as the day wears on. But, this being a slow burn of a film, a viewer’s outlook on Penumbra will more than likely hinge on whether or not they can stand going through the running time with Marga.
Girlfriend lies, apparently sleeps around to get things done, uses people to get what she wants, and generally just looks down on everyone and everything that isn’t Marga.
She’s not the easiest protagonist to identify with, but if you stick this one out, it’s ultimately a satisfying cinematic experience, more so perhaps than Sudor Frio, where the style simply oozed off the screen, sometimes to the detriment of the material. In Penumbra, the style is still evident, but restrained enough to allow the narrative and the performances to stand on their own merits.
In light of Penumbra, I’m so looking forward to Adrián’s contribution to The ABCs of Death, as well as Ahí Va el Diablo (Here Comes the Devil), which will reportedly look back not just on Nicolas Roeg’s work, but also Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, a personal favourite of mine, and a film that Bogliano apparently loves as well.

(Penumbra OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 23

(October 2011)

Anthony DiBlasi is familiar to ¡Qué Horror! territory from his past Clive Barker adaptations, The Midnight Meat Train (for which he acted as executive producer) and Dread (which he adapted for the screen, exec produced and directed). DiBlasi is back again, this time as director of Cassadaga.
In this one, deaf art teacher Lily (Kelen Coleman) moves to the “Psychic Capital of America,” Cassadaga, Florida, in the wake of a family tragedy. Hoping to find a new direction and purpose in life, Lily instead gets involved with some dangerous supernatural hijinx as a ghost makes its presence known to her, in an attempt to get some vengeance from beyond the grave.
On paper, it may sound like standard stuff, but it’s standard stuff handled well, and, believe you me, the marionette bits in here are mondo disturbo…

Parting shot: Dear Mr. DiBlasi, I’m still waiting on your Pig Blood Blues adaptation… I sincerely hope it’s still a project of on-going concern…

(Cassadaga OS courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


(ag·gres·sion scale): noun: “A psychological test measuring the frequency of overt aggressive behaviors that may result in physical or psychological injury to others.”

So I waffled a bit on this since a significant portion of this film’s DNA is decidedly “thriller,” and it seemed odd to put this one up there on the ¡Qué Horror! candidate list (even with the horrific, violent bits), so here we are, outside of all of that.
Steven C. Miller’s The Aggression Scale is an interesting spin on the home invasion film, as a search for some missing money puts two young step-siblings in jeopardy.
Think Home Alone-style hijinx--where the baddies are put through the wringer by an underaged hooligan--but played with a deadly straight face; have Twin Peaks alumni Ray Wise and Dana Ashbrook, and Derek Mears (the “new” Jason Voorhees) along for the ride, as their bad guy a$$es are run ragged by The Thompsons’ Ryan Hartwig and John Dies at the End’s Fabianne Therese, and you’ll have a fair idea of what’s in store for you in The Aggression Scale.
If you ever wondered what Home Alone would have looked like if it had been made for an adult audience, well, here you go…

(The Aggression Scale DVD cover art courtesy of twitchfilm.com.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 22

(September 2011)

I think the last time I encountered a horror-comedy that worked this well was, appropriately enough, Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead.
Alejandro Brugués’ Juan de los Muertos sees the zombie apocalypse explode on the streets of Havana. It’s rude and satirical and funny and yes, actually moving in a couple of spots. It also says a lot about living in a country that’s so distant and removed from the First World Western living experience that it may as well be on another planet instead of 228 miles away from Miami.
It’s also got a killer end title sequence, some nods to Jaws, [REC], and Braindead/Dead Alive (to name a few), and a noteworthy use of the Sex Pistols. And, like fellow ¡Qué Horror! 2012 candidate, Kalevet, Juan de los Muertos is touted as the first horror movie from its country of origin (though strictly speaking, this is a co-production between Cuba, Mexico, and Spain, and, unlike Kalevet, there's a whole lot of funny here).
You really shouldn’t need any more recommendation than that…

(Juan de los Muertos OS courtesy of cineol.net.)

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 21

(February 2012)

If you’re in the mood for some old school ghost story hijinx, you can’t really go wrong with James Watkins’ The Woman in Black.
Adapted from Susan Hill’s novel by she-of-the-flaming-red hair, Mrs. Jonathan Ross, Jane Goldman--who, as frequent Matthew Vaughn collaborator, has also adapted Neil Gaiman (Stardust) and Mark Millar (Kick-Ass), and brought the X-Men back to the swinging 60’s (X-Men: First Class)--this one has got a decrepit mansion surrounded by a vast, mucky marsh, suitably saddled with the unbearably charming name of “Eel Marsh House.” It’s a rotting domicile dominated by a black-garbed ghost, and chockful of cobwebs, creepy kids’ toys, and a rocking chair.
What more could you ask for in any self-respecting haunted house?

Sure, poor old Harry Potter (actually, Daniel Radcliffe, in period 'cut and garb) has no business galumphing around Eel Marsh House when he should be working, what, with his job in jeopardy, and yes, that damned dog disappears conveniently enough when he’s not needed to bark at unseen ghostly apparitions, but the creeps and the scares are so finely tuned, one can choose to overlook these slights.
The fact that this is such a different kind of film from Watkins’ feature debut, past ¡Qué Horror! title, Eden Lake, is simply another reason why this gets on this year’s Candidate List…

(The Woman in Black OS’ courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 20

(December 2010)

Touted, not just as Israel’s first slasher film, but actually the country’s first horror film, Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales’ Kalevet doesn’t play like your standard slasher, unlike, say, Hong Kong’s Wai Dor Lei Ah Yut Ho.
Sure, there’s a killer in Kalevet, but in all honesty, this film is more about how we don’t really need insane psychos to do us in; we can handle that all by our petty, irrational selves, thank you very much.

The odd thing about this film, for me, at least, is that I really did not like the characters. At all.
But then, given what Papushado and Keshales are apparently trying to say, these are exactly the sort of characters you need messing about onscreen to get that point across.
It’s been interesting to see how other countries have been playing around with the slasher template, with titles like Wai Dor Lei Ah Yut Ho, and Kalevet, and if you grew up during the ‘80’s slasher heyday too, this one should be on your radar…

(Kalevet OS courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com; Rabies OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 19

(May 2011)

Care for a double bill that can potentially work far better than rubbers or the pill to effect birth control?
Try pairing past ¡Qué Horror! title, George Ratliff’s Joshua, with Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.

A powerful and terrifyingly chilling entry in the annals of bad seed cinema, We Need to Talk About Kevin is based on Lionel Shriver’s novel, and is so good, that it got Shriver’s seal of approval, as evidenced on the UK quad above.
With a painfully exquisite performance by Tilda Swinton (who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role, but snubbed by Oscar) as Eva Khatchadourian, and an appropriately “f*cker’s so smug you wanna just slap him silly” turn by Ezra Miller as her fundamentally disturbed son, the eponymous Kevin, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a grim depiction (made even more harrowing by its non-linear narrative structure) of just how wrong raising a child can turn out, and how the ultimately selfish acts of willful and unmindful children impact and reflect on the adults in their vicinity.

Parting shot: Though I love the devil baby OS above, I feel I need to stress that, like Joshua, there is nothing remotely supernatural about the situation in We Need to Talk About Kevin, which, of course, makes it all the more disturbing.

(We Need to Talk About Kevin OS’ and UK quad courtesy of impawards.com.)

¡Qué horror! 2012
Candidate # 18

(January 2011)

“God only knows where she’s been living, Peg. In the woods. In caves. We’re gonna help her…”

Premiering at Sundance 2011 on the same day as fellow ¡Qué Horror! 2012 candidate, Red State, and causing quite the controversial stir, Lucky McKee’s The Woman is ostensibly a sequel to Andrew van den Houten’s Offspring (both films adapted from the works of Jack Ketchum).
Now, honestly, I wasn’t overly fond of Offspring, so I really only gravitated to The Woman on the strength of McKee’s name, and after having seen it, I have this to say for starters: if someone were to have told me three years ago that Offspring would beget a sequel, I wouldn’t have pictured it to be the feral and ferocious cinematic experience that is McKee’s The Woman.

Truth be told, you really don’t need to have seen Offspring to appreciate what McKee and company have done with The Woman. All you really have to know is, a wild woman (Pollyanna McIntosh, reprising her role as “The Woman”) is living in the woods.
It isn’t long after The Woman starts though, that she’s no longer running loose in the woods. Then, of course, the fit hits the shan, and off we go.
McKee (working together with his May star, Angela Bettis, for the fifth time, if my count is right) shows us just how primal and vicious the female of the species can be, particularly when cornered by the more idiotic and presumptuous members of the opposite sex.
This is strong and potent stuff, not for the easily offended.
You have been warned…

“We’re gonna train her, Brian. Civilize her. Free her from herself, from her baser instincts.”

(The Woman OS courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com; UK quad courtesy of impawards.com.)