The Forest (2016)

The Forest provides what could have been an interesting premise of Japanese cultural folklore, yet opts out for redundant shock tactics and bland characters.

Sara (Natalie Dormer) tramps out to Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, after hearing from local police that her identical twin sister entered, and has not yet returned. Despite the concerns of those around her and whispers of the haunting yueri, Sara enters the forest determined to find her sister.

Directorial debut for Jason Zada, a bold move to take on real life locale Aokigahara Forest aka The Suicide Forest. This dense shrouded forest lies at the foot of Mount Fuji, but more notoriously known for as a common suicide site, hence the nickname. With depressing statistics surrounding Aokigahara, some might question the exploitative nature of capitalizing in on such a sensitive location.

It’s easy to see why the creative writers would use this backdrop for a horror setting, but that’s exactly what they did… they’ve used it only as a pretty backdrop. If it were to be set in any other forest, the story would still remain the same. A deeper look into the mythos of The Suicide Forest could have created an innovative story, rather it is your standard supernatural American J-Horror.

It is not the worst movie ever though, and it probably doesn’t deserve all the hate. Visually, there is stunning cinematography capturing the immensity of the woods. But when things begin to go bump in the night, so too does the narrative.

There is no slow descent into madness for Sara. As the final act turns into a what’s real and what isn’t, Sara’s paranoia has spiked to a level of craziness. Has she suddenly forgotten the multiple warnings of “the forest makes you see bad things”? Her foolish and not so subtle attitude raises sloppy narrative structure and half realised ideas.

With too many jump gags and an underwhelming final twist, this spooky spirit film with a promise premise is uninspiring.

5.5 / 10

“I don’t know if this forest made you psycho or you were always this crazy” 

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Poltergeist (2015)


Poltergeist is a poor and unnecessary remake, eager to jump on an established brand of the cult classic from 1982. This bloodless horror lacks creativity and originality and overkills it with CGI.

A family whose new suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the spectral creatures snatch her.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… Was anyone actually asking for a Poltergeist remake? For the Director, Gil Kenan, it’s an unfortunate tumble into the Hollywood system of regurgitating classic films, and spitting back up something foul. At no point do you feel the people behind this film are there for artistic passion or creative drive. Kenan’s previous animated children’s horror, Monster House, has more heart and spooks then the latter.

It is a bold move to take on one of the pioneering horror gems, and the always ill-fated remake falls flat. Nothing feels fresh or new, the only exception is that they’ve adapted the story to embrace the use of technology for todays tech savvy generation. The original details are kept, but no new mythology is established. The unimaginative excessive use of CGI also detracts from forming any real build up of fear for the story or characters. Everything feels just a little too tame, the characters are far too passive once realising the youngest has been taken, their blasé attitudes create a lifeless and rushed ending.

Even, the magnetic appeal of Sam Rockwell can’t save this script.

Poltergeist is a dull unwarranted remake. The best thing that can come out of this movie is directing a new generation to the original cult classic.

2.0 / 10

“This house is cleaned!”

Ava’s Possessions (2016)

Ava’s Possessions is a quirky colourful pseudo horror comedy. Never taking itself too seriously, it’s a fun fresh spin on a classic theme. Narratively it feels a little underdeveloped, but the witty dialogue and innovative premise amasses an appealing hold over the viewer. 

Ava, a young woman recovering from a demonic possession; with no memory of the past month and her hazardous behaviour is sentenced to attend a court ordered Spirits Possession Anonymous support group, (a little like AA but for exorcism survivors) to piece her life back together.

Writer/Director Jordan Galland’s demonic possession movie begins were most usually end. Ava’s Possessions is a fun alternative to your usual run of the mill exorcism flick. Engulfed in a world of vibrant colours, this novelty film of fluoro fusion never takes itself too seriously.

The premise of Ava’s Possessions is invitingly original. Set in a world where possession is commonplace, so much so that the judicial system has appointed support groups, and society doesn’t question the absurdity. Ava’s friends are not exactly forgiving with her survival of the supernatural, rather they judge heavily for her uncontrollable actions.

“You sort of acted like mega bitch while you were possessed….and a slut”

Louisa Krause is charming as titular character, Ava. In a whirlwind of glitzy, neon lights and arousing satanic presences, Ava remains vigilant with a facetious manner.

Set in absorbing world, the narrative takes an unfortunate turn into a Nancy Drew like mystery. With dead hookers, inner family turmoils and an underdeveloped love interest the final act feels awkwardly rushed.

Don’t let the abrupt final act sway you from viewing this film. Ava’s Possessions is an imaginative vivacious film, fully aware of its own self.

6.5 / 10

“Haven’t you heard, I can handle my spirits”

 

The Witch (2016)

The Witch is a thought provoking, visually delicious boutique horror film. With a slow descent into madness driving the film into unsettling eeriness, this is quite unlike any other horror movie, ever seen or felt. With startling imagery and a cacophonous score, this folkloric nightmare simmers with ever escalating dread, even after the credits have rolled.

Dread gives way to despair, as a puritan family in the 1630s encounter forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm.

Robert Eggers, breaks barriers in this spell bounding directorial debut. It is clearly evident the amount of researched devoted to the film, the archaic production quality and true Old English vocabulary, brings a near Shakespearean ambiance to the film. Its an absolute delight of originality and a perfect example of how a movie can be terrifying without any actual horror.

The bleak yet haunting cinematography casts a layer of creepy atmosphere, alongside with a discordant score of anxious strings, unnatural scrapes and a ghastly choir. It composes a sense of utmost paranoia and fear for all characters involved. The performances altogether bring an authenticity to the story, Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Thomasin, perfectly encapsulates a sense of innocence and an awakening femininity. The true brilliance of The Witch, is the mindset all these characters place you in.

It is mostly a psychological film, heavily focusing on the family’s religious fuelled reaction to the idea of a witch tormenting them. Without relying on jump scares to strike fear into an audience, or gore, the horrific details are in what you don’t see.

The Witch takes on very real issues – religion, grief, hysteria and distrust. However, general audiences may feel cheated out of a horror film, as each scene leaves you hanging by a thread, with no pay off. After watching this with my partner, I wanted to slap him across the back side of the head, after he turned to me and uttered the words “that wasn’t scary” … Since when did the term ‘scary’ only belong to those moments of cheap thrills? The average movie-goer shouldn’t berate this film for its slow building nature for not being ‘scary’. This visceral period piece illustrates the difference between horror and terror. In an age of franchise horror films and found footages spooks, this is why our beloved genre is never taken seriously.

The Witch is a movie that demands repeat viewings (perhaps with subtitles for certain scenes), it’s an intelligent evocative film enveloped in broody atmosphere, a chilling score and hypnotizing performances.

With a bewitching final act, The Witch’s true impact reveals itself once the credits have rolled and your left to your thoughts as it stays buried beneath your skin.

9.5 / 10

“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”

The Hallow (2015)

The Hallow transports us through a dark and menacing fairy tale. A moody atmospheric horror fantasy with real emotion and clever set pieces, this slow burner wastes no time in showcasing its practical effects.

 Corin Hardy’s directorial debut is an interesting mishmash of traditional Irish folklore with an alluring blend of body horror. A creature feature with a bit of heart, this ambitious monster movie is simple, but creepy.

Adam Hitchens (Joseph Mawle) has just moved his family into any isolated house, bordering the edge of a shrouded forest. The natives warn the family from poking around the woods, but upon discovering a mysterious black fungus, Adam and his family soon find themselves fighting for survival with the demonic creatures of the woodlands.

This dark blend of folklore legend with a dash of real science, creates a clever story with an engaging first act, evoking an aura of mystery and suspense. Its grungy atmosphere effortlessly jumps right into monster mania. With a minimal budget to work with Hardy’s woodland creatures are a welcomed display of practical and digital effects. With shades of District 9, the effects are darkly unnerving, those who can not handle eye trauma may need to look away. Gritty and unsettling, the makeup has you on the precipice of wanting to look away. The use of set pieces also creates an unnerving backdrop for the film. The dilapidated home, the looming forest, all suggest something dark and unsettling standing just out of frame.

The films pace is quick to action, allowing no dead air, at the same time this sacrifices a backstory for our main characters. Therefore, losing what could have been a powerful emotional punch for the final act. Michael McElhattons cameo, as disgruntled neighbour Colm, is fleetingly sparse as well, an unfortunate opportunity lost.

As a whole, The Hallow is an enjoyable entry into the body horror fantasy genre. With its fresh take on the folklore legends, this film offers unique flavours of obscurity.

7.5 / 10

“So are you a believer?”

Emelie (2016)

Emelie is a home invasion movie of a different kind. A taut slow burner that endlessly builds on unfamiliar suspense. It plays to an honest fear, but fails to leave any real lasting impression with a underwhelming final act.

Michael Thelin’s directorial debut taps into every parent’s worst nightmare – Can we trust the babysitter? By flipping the script, Thelin treats audiences to an effective little thriller with his interesting twist on the tale of the babysitter horror genre.

The Thompson family have a new babysitter. When regular babysitter, Maggie is unavailable, her friend Anna is hired for the job. As we begin to learn very early on, this babysitter is not exactly who she says she is, and has some nasty ulterior motives.

For a horror movie, it does not produce any straight up scares, but tension with a sinister undertone. As we move along through the story, the uneasiness begins to really set in and you find yourself squirming in your chair. Now don’t expect these certain scenes to be filled with knives, machetes or anything sharp. No… just a tampon, and an old VHS tape.

Sarah Bolger (Emelie), is vivid in the lead role as babysitter gone bad. Bolger really inherits this role as she effortlessly swings from darling to disturbing, from innocent to icy.

However, as Emelie’s true intentions begin to unravel, so too does the film. After a solid hour of menacing terror on these poor children, her motivations are revealed and you can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed.

Questions begin to rise, were her actions all really necessary??

What starts off as a genuine fearful tale, its unfortunate the final act couldn’t be further explored and better exploited. Just like Emelie, this film isn’t broken, it’s just cracked….

7.0 / 10

“Sometimes it’s okay to destroy things for fun” 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

10 Cloverfield Lane is a heart pounding thriller wrapped inside a horror, with enthralling characters, slick dialogue and constant tension that just builds, and builds, and builds, then pauses for a moment to let you breathe…and then builds, builds, builds all over again.

10 Cloverfield Lane, snuck up on all of us (don’t pretend it didn’t). The trailer dropped and everybody near lost their minds! The Twittersphere exploded with all the obvious questions. Is it a sequel? A prequel? A parallel story? Does it even have anything to do with the 2008 film Cloverfield?

Secretly being filmed under the pseudonym ‘The Cellar’ and ‘Valencia’, Dan Trachtenberg delivers a thrilling directorial debut. With a small cast and small set, expect big things!

A well versed scream queen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Final Destination 3, The Thing, Black Christmas), engrosses audiences with her captivating humanising portrayal of Michelle. After Michelle regains consciousness from a car accident, she finds herself shackled to wall in a bunker several feet below the ground. Her captor, Howard (John Goodman), urges her not to fight or try to escape as there has been a mass chemical attack, killing everyone and rendering the air unbreathable.

10 Cloverfield Field is surprisingly a very character driven film with clever dialogue. The film plays exactly to your expectations, but just when you think you know where the story is going, it back pedals and slaps you in the face. The lengthy mid section of the film is a work of expertly seesawing between claustrophobia dread and doomsday panic. The edge of your seat, fingernail chewing narrative continuously builds on psychological tension. The movie never allows you to forget the possibility that Howard might be paranoid? Delusional? Psychotic?

John Goodman is a terrific villain, and it is an absolute pleasure to see him in a dialogue heavy role, he is marvellously unnerving, he is good, he is scarily good!

However, this human scaled horror movie is let down by its final twenty minutes. After such a tight and gripping story, the action sequence feels unnecessarily tacked on. The only positive thing to take from the ending is it’s short and snappy, so before you have time to eye roll at the so vanilla Hollywood ending, the credits will be rolling.

A smart, psychological tension filled tale, with all three lead actors delivering rich performances. Just don’t let the ending leave a sour taste in your mouth.

8.5 / 10

“Crazy is building your ark after the flood has already come”

 

 

Intruders (2016)

Intruders offers an intriguing take in the sensationalised home invasion genre. With solid performances and a tight pace this prey becomes predator film is a wickedly fun time.

Intruders (formerly known as Shut In), brings us a cat and mouse thriller about young Anna, who finds herself alone in her large family home after her cancer riddled brother passes away. Anna, suffers from agoraphobia, so bad that she cannot bring herself to attend her brother’s funeral, or even flee her house when three men break into her home.

An exciting directorial debut from Adam Schindler, this film brings you a taste of the thrill of Panic Room, and the agony of Saw.

With solid performances from all, a special mention to Martin Starr, who is usually conveyed in the cinematic world as loveable geeky character, takes a dramatic turn as the overly eager to kill criminal, Perry. The pacing of the film is incredible tight in the first hour, it is wickedly fun and gratuitously violent as we witness timid Anna (Beth Riesgraf), swiftly adapt a very cold manner and become the queen of resting bitch face.

Although, the movie does quite fall apart towards the end, the reasoning behind the puzzle box of a house feels like it spat out in a couple minutes of dialogue. The overwrought exposition is rushed and unfortunately lacks in originality, which is regrettably disappointing as it takes away a little of that authenticity that movie had crafted so well.

Fortunately, the good outweighs the bad in this fun little film brought to you by Jigsaws property developer.

8.0 / 10

“You have no idea what I’m like”

Coming Soon: Observance

I truly believe Australians produce the best horror films out there…. call me bias!

There I said it!

Just take a quick peek into some of our previous home grown heroes (The Babadook, The Loved Ones, Wyrmwood, Wolf Creek, James Wan!)

Financially, Australian filmmakers aren’t given the same slice of pie as American’s.

The horror genre, especially seems to suffer in the financial department. With filmmakers tending to rely strongly on creating the spooks through story.

The upcoming horror ‘Observance’ comes from young Sydney filmmaker Jospeh Sims-Dennett. This Hitchcockian inspired creeper creates goose bump raising spooks with a trailer that doesn’t give a whole lot away.

Premieres – VOD May 16th, 2016

Southbound (2016)

Southbound is a refreshing horror into the anthology genre, with thrilling twists and turns, and smooth story transitions, amongst rich atmosphere this is a film you don’t want to miss.

Southbound houses five interlocking tales of terror stretched over one long desolate highway – a pair of brothers running from their past, a jazz band with no way to their next gig, a highway accident, a brother looking for his long lost sister and a family on one final vacation.

Each segment has a different director – Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath and Radio Silence, this collaboration of directors set the bar for horror omnibus flicks. From a mix of the creators from VHS, one would think to steer clear from another tired use of horror anthology, but there is something special about Southbound.

This indie gem brings you a grungy atmosphere, a synthy score and stimulating characters tormented by their guilt. With a modest budget, Southbound does well to even include some fun low budget special effects, creating wispy floating skeletal angels of death. Each segment blends into the other one seamlessly without any distracting elements, there is no dead air as you are catapulted into every nightmare.

Although some segments are much stronger then other, if you are to watch this movie, watch it for the middle instalment, The Accident. An intensely disturbing tale following the acts of a good Samaritan attempting to save a badly injured woman, while an EMT dispatcher, a 911 operator and a Surgeon talk him through the steps. Blood spurts, limbs crack, you will feel like you’ve just witnessed something you shouldn’t have in this troubling body horror, with humour so dark it oozes…

If there are any negative points of Southbound, it’s that each story leaves a lot of loose threads hanging. Although this isn’t entirely bothersome, it just feels like a badly wrapped present.

Southbound is a unique collection of tightly knitted horror stories. It’s eerily hypnotic.

7.5 / 10

This place feels like a bad acid trip”