Friday, September 30, 2016


A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[4 of 13]
The Anthology Slot


The first of three ties this year...

TALES OF HALLOWEEN
(July 2015)


"Do you know what would perk up this candy-ass display?
“Some motherf*ckin’ blood!”

With ten stories in its 97-minute running time, The October Society’s Tales of Halloween* has a pretty darn good batting average for a horror anthology, in that--at least as far as I’m concerned--there really isn’t any segment in here that’s a particular stinker.
Naturally, you will like some stories more than others, but it’s a pretty good bet that you’ll come out of this thinking, “Sh!t, yeah, that was fun!”
And that’s what Tales of Halloween is, really.
From the “SNL sketch as directed by old school splatter Peter Jackson” insanity of Mike Mendez’s “Friday the 31st” to the stylized horror of Lucky McKee’s “Ding Dong” (with Pollyanna McIntosh!), from the blackly comedic commentary of the ultimately pointless debate between old school horror and the more modern black metal splatterpunk aesthetic in John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s “This Means War” (with James Duval!) to the bizarro horror of Neil Marshall’s “Bad Seed” (with Pat Healy as “Forensic Bob”!), Tales of Halloween is some awesomely fun Halloween horror viewing.


“Are you kidding me?! My nuts were viciously assaulted by a monster, dude!”

Plus, there’s a whole bunch of familiar genre faces in here, including Greg Grunberg, Lin Shaye, Noah Segan, Sam Witwer, John Landis, Adam Green, and Joe Dante.
Alex Essoe (from ¡Q horror! 2015 title, Starry Eyes) and Drew Struzan (as “Rembrandt”) are in here, too, along with Adrienne Barbeau, who basically echoes her Stevie Wayne character from The Fog as the very loose bridging element of “The Radio DJ”.
Originating from an idea by Axelle Carolyn (who also happens to be Neil Marshall’s wife), Tales of Halloween is a mighty fine addition to the ranks of horror anthologies out there.
So be sure and stuff this one into your Halloween candy sack!

“Go bag me some of those horror freaks!”

* The film is dedicated to the memory of Ben Woolf, who recently appeared as Meep in American Horror Story: Freak Show.

SOUTHBOUND
(September 2015)


"Well, this next one is for you. All you lost souls racin’ down that long road to redemption, and all you sinners runnin’ from your past, but headin’ straight into that pit o’ darkness up ahead.”

The contemporary horror anthology film continues to tread the kicka$$ territories completely alien to the bland Hollywood horror that currently clutters up the multiplexes, this time, in the form of Southbound.
Bloody Disgusting’s Brad Miska--who also brought us the V/H/S anthologies--has his paw prints all over this one too, a collection of interconnected tales brought to us by the likes of David Bruckner (¡Q horror! 2008 title, The Signal and the V/H/S segment, “Amateur Night”) and Radio Silence (“10/31/98” from ¡Q horror! 2012 title, V/H/S).

Not really much more I can say without spoiling the surprises, so just get out there and hunt this down!

“We’re all on the same endless highway, the one with no name and no exits, lookin’ for a way out of tonight and inta tomorrow.
“Well, they’re gonna try to stop you, but you gotta say, “F*ckin’ keep movin’,” because this is your highway, and tonight might just be the night you finally outrun those wicked demons once and for all…”

Parting Shot 1: The one and only Larry Fessenden has his presence known here, as “The D.J.” (I guess the radio DJ as a horror anthology bridging element in now officially a thing...)

Parting Shot 2: I have mixed feelings about Siren, the upcoming feature-length adaptation of “Amateur Night.”
While I’m curious to see how it’ll play as a feature, I am wondering why Gregg Bishop is directing, and not Bruckner, who helmed the original short.
It doesn’t help that I wasn’t overly fond of “Dante the Great,” Bishop’s segment in V/H/S Viral, either…

(Tales of Halloween OS’ courtesy of aintitcool.com & bloody-disgusting.com; Southbound OS courtesy of impawards.com.)


A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[3 of 13]


THE INVITATION
(March 2015)


While I wasn't particularly crazy about Karyn Kusama’s previous genre efforts (the live action adaptation of Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body)*, her latest feature, The Invitation, is another matter entirely.


Working from a screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (who’d previously worked with her on Aeon Flux), Kusama crafts an exquisite example of slow burn horror as a group of friends who haven’t seen each other in a couple of years are brought back together by the titular invitation, for a night of talk and drinks and a gradually escalating sense of wrongness.


Now, given that that’s all you’ll get here in terms of what the film is about, if seeing familiar genre faces makes you more comfortable, then the likes of John Carroll Lynch, and Michiel Huisman (who’s been conspicuously absent of late from Orphan Black, though is very much present on Game of Thrones), and Logan Marshall-Green, are here for the festivities.
Marshall-Green, in particular, needs to be singled out, as he pretty much anchors the film’s proceedings as Will, who is still dealing with the trauma of a personal tragedy, and is the one most attuned to the wrongness I made mention of earlier.

So, yeah. The Invitation.
RSVP, regrets only.

* I’ve still to find the opportunity to see Kusama’s feature debut, Girlfight, so, who knows, she might have kicked my film geek a$$ really early on, if only I’d caught it when it was first released…

(The Invitation OS’ courtesy of impawards.com & aintitcool.com.)

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[2 of 13]


THE HALLOW
(January 2015)


Hallow be their name,
And blessed be their claim.
If you who trespass put down roots,
Then Hallow be your name.

A couple, their baby, and faithful family dog Iggy find themselves in the desolate wilds of the Irish woods, where they inadvertently run afoul of the Hallow, described by Garda Davey (Michael Smiley) as “… The good people. Fairies, banshees, baby stealers,” “… a conquered people, forever in hiding, driven from their sacred lands by man with iron and fire.”

The love and respect director/co-writer Corin Hardy has for the creature effects wizardry of FX icons Ray Harryhausen, Dick Smith, and Stan Winston is apparent from the practical manner in which Hardy brings the Hallow to the screen; dis da old school!
And if that’s not enough of a recommendation, there are also appearances from familiar genre faces like Smiley and Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton, yo!), as a scowly, broody, vaguely threatening local.

Parting Shot: Before Hardy brought us his impressive feature debut in The Hallow, he also directed a number of short films and a whole slew of music videos, including one for The Horrors’ “She is the New Thing,” and another for Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know,” which features what could very well be cutesy, music-friendly versions of the Hallow.

(The Hallow OS courtesy of aintitcool.com.)

A Rundown of the 13 Best Horror Movies I've Seen in the Past Year
[1 of 13]



THE WITCH
(January 2015)


"O God, my Lord, I now begin,
O help me and I'll leave my sin.
For I, repentant now shall be,
From evil I will turn to Thee.
None ever shall destroy my faith,
Nor do I mind what Satan saith.”

Writer/director Robert Eggers’ feature debut, The Witch (or, The VVitch: A New-England Folktale, if thou preferest) is an astounding piece of period horror.
“Inspired”--as the film tells us at its climax--“by many folktales, fairytales and written accounts of historical witchcraft, including journals, diaries and court records,” The Witch follows the travails of a family living on the edge of a deep, dark wood, beset by misery and sinister occurrences.


“Black Phillip, Black Phillip,
King of sky and land.
Black Phillip, Black Phillip,
King of sea and sand.

“We are ye servants,
We are ye men.
Black Phillip eats the lions
From the lions’ den.”

Though most everything in The Witch is noteworthy (including Craig Lathrop’s production design, Jarin Blaschke’s  cinematography, and Mark Korven’s creeptastic score), the film’s casting should not be overlooked, particularly, the fact that the only readily recognizable genre face here is Kate Dickie.*
Suspension of disbelief is always a sight easier when the screen isn’t filled with Hollywood names. And if you love your horror--and treasure the lingering echoes of eeriness left behind by a tale of dread well told--then this is a story you’ll definitely want to get sucked into without any distractions.

“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”


(The Witch OS’ courtesy of impawards.com & hcgart.com.)

* At least, to me.
I imagine some Harry Potter fans may recognize Ralph Ineson, who, like Dickie, also appeared on Game of Thrones. I, however, was never a Potter fan, and for the life of me, cannot recall who GoT’s “Dagmer Cleftjaw” is, nor what he looked like…

¡QUÉ HORROR2016
The Preliminaries

So yeah, you know the drill: another October, another ¡Q horror! rundown.


I think the most notable thing about this year’s crop is, for the first time in a while, there is no TV entry, which is not to say that there was no good small screen horror in the past 12 months, but rather, that the film entries were simply much more clearly “horror” than the TV Candidates.

Now, while I just did not find the time to give these shows their own Candidate posts (apologies to all involved), I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them here, so, without further ado, please consider these ¡Q horror! 2016 Candidates #19 through 21…

LES REVENANTS (THE RETURNED)
Season 2
(October 2015)


There was nearly a 3 year gap (!) between the initial airing of the final episode of Les Revenants’ first season, and the premiere of its second season, and though its sophomore run did answer some of the lingering questions, it also had its own fair share of mysteries and ambiguity, all cloaked in the dreary and somber atmosphere the show has always sported.
And though it did seem to wrap the main narrative up, the second season also left certain questions unanswered. But as to whether there’ll be a third season, that would be anyone’s guess at this point.
Perhaps we need to wait another 3 years to find out…

PENNY DREADFUL
Season 3
(May 2016)


The fact that this third season also wound up being its final one was, perhaps, the biggest surprise for the show’s audience.
It was sad, and certainly sudden, to see that end title card, but those were the narrative choices made, and if the show did have to end, at least it ended on its own terms.
It was also a bummer to have the always welcome Simon Russell Beale downgraded from his Season 2 regular status to two (!) brief appearances.
That loss was partially alleviated with the upgrading of Patti LuPone to regular status, in what was also a cheeky bit of Starbucking.
And then there was Billie Piper, who continued her blazing performance as Lily, giving Eva Green a run for her money.

Sniff.
Penny D, ye shall be missed…

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
Season 1
(June 2016)


“We talked a lot in pre-production about what this was going to be and I was really keen that it wouldn’t be horror. The word we used was eerie.”

It was this quality--summed up by series creator Ashley Pharoah in the above quote--that initially made me waffle on the show’s inclusion here. This wasn’t just “quiet horror” for most of the narrative; more mute or silent horror.
In the end though, the overall tone and mood throughout its half-dozen episodes, the intriguing angles from which the idea of ghosts are approached, plus some key moments where you think, “Oh, well, things will be fine now, won’t they?” when horribly, things don’t turn out fine at all, won the day, and here The Living and the Dead is.

Plus, anything that gets the Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser back in the recording studio needs to be celebrated! (Fraser does the vocals on “She Moves Through the Fair” from episode 1, and “The Lover’s Ghost” from the episode 4 end credits.)
Though I’ve no word on the possibility of a second season, this one ends on an incredulous “Well, they can’t leave it like that now, can they?!” note.

“I was thinking a lot about what hauntings actually are. Are they echoes from the past or something else?”
--Ashley Pharoah

(Les Revenants & Penny Dreadful OS’ courtesy of impawards.com; The Living and the Dead DVD cover art courtesy of amazon.co.uk.)

Sunday, September 25, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #18

THE NEON DEMON
(May 2016)


"One morning I woke up and realised I was both surrounded and dominated by women. Strangely, a sudden urge was planted in me to make a horror film about vicious beauty. After making Drive and falling madly in love with the electricity of Los Angeles, I knew I had to return to tell the story of The Neon Demon.”
--Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon opens with an artfully posed--and apparently dead--female body, subject to the cold, hard male gaze, and its mechanical extension, the camera.
Much can be gleaned from that single, provocative image regarding some of Refn’s thematic concerns for this, his 10th feature.

“Once you hit 21 in this industry, you’re so irrelevant.”
“Try 20.”
“True.”


Following Jesse (Elle Fanning), newly arrived in L.A. to try her luck as a fashion model, The Neon Demon--which began its developmental life under the title I Walk with the Dead--is Refn’s first attempt at a horror film, and it certainly is that, albeit a horror film as told through the filter of the NWR aesthetic.

“True beauty is the highest currency we have.
“Now, without it, she would be nothing.”

My first brush with Refn’s work was Fear X, which, honestly, I wasn’t too thrilled about. I had missed his earlier titles, Pusher and Bleeder, as I also subsequently missed the Pusher sequels, and Bronson.
I checked out Valhalla Rising, but again, like Fear X, it didn’t quite take with me.
But Drive changed all that. Drive was the NWR title that solidly kicked my film geek a$$.
And though his follow-up, Only God Forgives, was not as well-received by the wider film critic community, I absolutely loved it.
So when word broke about his next film being a “horror movie/sex thriller,” I was so in.
And now, after a title change and two female co-writers brought on board (British playwright Polly Stenham and Mary Laws, who’s also written for AMC’s Preacher adaptation), here we are, and I am so happy that my film geek love for Refn continues unabated.


“You know what my mother used to call me? ‘Dangerous.’
“‘You’re a dangerous girl.’
“She was right. I am dangerous.”

With familiar genre faces that include Jena Malone and Keanu Reeves (as skeezy dirtbag motel manager, Hank), and another killer Cliff Martinez soundtrack, The Neon Demon is slick, disturbingly erotic, and hallucinatory, much like the fashion industry itself.
It’s about appearances and facades, and the casually cruel nature of the modeling business, where everyone is merely meat, complete with respective expiration dates.

“I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t write. No real talent.
“But I’m pretty… and I can make money off pretty.”



Parting Shot: Given its setting and subject matter, this is a perfect companion piece to ¡Q horror! 2015 title, Starry Eyes.

(The Neon Demon OS’ courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com, dailydead.com, impawards.com, and shocktillyoudrop.com.)

Thursday, September 22, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #17

GOKSEONG
(THE WAILING)
(May 2016)


But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And He said unto them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
--Luke 24: 37-39

With that Biblical quote, Na Hong-jin’s Gokseong kicks off, as a remote mountain village in South Korea becomes the site of brutal incidents of murder.
Sporting some of the conventions of Korean cinema (the tonal potpourri, the largely ineffectual dunce who passes off as the protagonist, the excellent cinematography--courtesy of Hong Kyung-pyo*), Gokseong is a disturbingly effective horror/thriller hybrid.
And while I may not agree with some of the things it ultimately says, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Na kills it with this one…

* Some of the other directors Hong has also shot for include Bong Joon-ho [Madeo (Mother) and Snowpiercer], Kim Min-suk [Cho-neung-ryeok-ja (Haunters)], and Kim Jee-woon [the “Memories” segment from San Geng (Three)].

(The Wailing OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #16

DEMON
(September 2015)


There's a real life tragedy behind Marcin Wrona’s Demon.

Exactly a year ago, on September 18, 2015*, Wrona was found dead--an apparent suicide--in a hotel room in Poland, where the film was screening at the Gdynia Film Festival.
It’s a painfully sad punctuation to the title, which is an emotionally wrenching, and quietly disturbing look at the Jewish legend of the dybbuk.**

In the film, a young couple’s wedding day is upended by unforeseen circumstances, and in a horror film, “unforeseen circumstances” can mean an air of malaise and unease, as the bridegroom (an excellent Itay Tiran) begins to display increasingly erratic behavior.
While there is a streak of darkly wry humor running through it, Demon is largely an outstanding work of quiet horror, and is, ultimately, about loss and memory (both as a comfortingly bittersweet salve and a burdensome reminder of collective guilt) and the transitory nature of all things.

Which, sadly, leads us back to the real life tragedy of Wrona’s death, and the fact that his passing has robbed global cinema of a promising and talented voice…

* As per imdb.com and Variety; some sources list Wrona’s date of death as September 19.

** The dybbuk was also explored recently in David Goyer’s The Unborn and Ole Bornedal’s The Possession, though in both cases, with a more Hollywood mainstream horror approach.

Parting Shot: The fact that today (or possibly tomorrow) is Wrona’s death anniversary was completely lost on me until I started to write this post…

(Demon OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Saturday, September 17, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #15

THE BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER
(September 2015)


Osgood Perkins (son of Norman Bates himself, Anthony Perkins) first landed in ¡Q horror! territory earlier this year as co-writer on Nick Simon’s The Girl in the Photographs.
Now he’s back, joining Simon’s effort as a 2016 Candidate, with his feature debut, The Blackcoat’s Daughter.
Originally titled February, the film follows Kat, Rose and Joan, the former two left largely alone and unattended at their virtually empty boarding school. Both are in a delicate condition (one, emotional, the other, physical), and soon, the quiet in the halls and rooms is shattered by the undeniable fact that this is, after all, a horror movie.

Under Perkins’ assured directorial hand, the off-kilter air that is in evidence very early on quickly settles into an unease that pervades the rest of the film’s running time, helped in no small part by Perkins’ younger brother, Elvis (himself a musician with 3 albums under his belt), who scores the proceedings with a jangly, atonal touch.

With Bryan Bertino (whose The Strangers nabbed itself a ¡Q horror! 2008 slot) as one of its producers, and genre faces James Remar, Emma Roberts, and a nearly unrecognizable Lauren Holly along for the darkly disquieting ride, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a must-see for anyone who treasures horror that doesn’t feel the need to over-explain itself.
It’s also a promising sign for Perkins’ follow-up, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, which has already gotten some good notices from its TIFF premiere a week ago.

(The Blackcoat’s Daughter & February OS’ courtesy of impawards.com.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #14

ANTIBIRTH
(January 2016)


"I just... I really can't be pregnant, all right? It is not my style…”


So, seriously. Look at that cast.
Natasha Lyonne (pulling down double duty as one of the producers, too!), Chloë Sevigny, and Meg Tilly!
Do I have to say anything more?!

If I do, then this sordid little bit of lo-fi horror from writer/director Danny Perez is, by far, the most off-the-wall, bizarre candidate this year.
Hard partying Lou (Lyonne)--who was definitely not in line when God was giving out maternal instincts--discovers, to her boozy, laid-back annoyance, that she’s beginning to exhibit signs of pregnancy, when, as far as she’s concerned, she can’t be (“… I think I’d remember if I had someone’s c*ck in me”).
As it turns out, “pregnant” is an absurd oversimplification of what takes place in Antibirth.

Check it out for the cast, then stay for the gooey bits…

(Antibirth OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

Monday, September 12, 2016


¡QUÉ HORROR2016
Candidate #13

I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
(March 2016)


All right. Full disclosure.
As far as I was concerned, there was a lot going for this one, all the reasons why I Am Not a Serial Killer was on my film geek radar in the first place (so I’m so glad it did not disappoint).

Max Records was headlining it.
Records was in Spike Jonze’s astounding adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are. He was also in Ruairi Robinson’s brilliant short film, Blinky. Hell, Records was even in Rian Johnson’s excellent The Brothers Bloom (though in nowhere near the same headlining capacity of either of the former titles).

Billy O’Brien was directing it.
I may not have been too thrilled with O’Brien’s second feature, The Hybrid (originally titled Scintilla), but his debut, Isolation, was a right doozy!
Which brings us rather neatly back to I Am Not a Serial Killer, because this plus Isolation is more than enough for me to politely overlook The Hybrid.

Based on Dan Wells’ novel--the screenplay is written by O’Brien and Christopher Hyde--Serial Killer follows John Wayne Cleaver (Records), a small town teen whose home life (Cleaver Family Funeral Home!) may have just helped contribute to some troubling sociopathic tendencies.
Thankfully, he’s trying to avoid the messy consequences of succumbing to his darker urges (and possibly even using funeral home chores as a coping mechanism), but some brutal killings soon draw his morbid attention, and things soon get very interesting.

With a curious, wry streak of humor running through it, Serial Killer takes some unexpected twists and turns, on its way to that WTF climax, and a commendably appropriate use of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.”
With Ruairi Robinson as one of its Executive Producers, and with Doc Brown himself, Christopher Lloyd, in its cast, I Am Not a Serial Killer is a title that you really need to check out, if unconventional and surprising horror is your thing…

(I Am Not a Serial Killer OS’ courtesy of impawards.com & screenanarchy.com.)