Raw (2017)

Who’d have thunk it? A cannibal film that is weirdly relatable…

When a young vegetarian, Justine, (Garance Marillier) undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.

Raw is an absolute gem and an extremely impressive feature film debut from Julia Ducournau. With such a taboo theme, being cannibalism, one would earmark this film to be another fiercely sick entry into the splatter horror subgenre, but surprisingly it is the narrative that is boldly ravenous. The title itself defines the unnerving tale of grisly self discovery that not only Justine goes through, but is a personal journey we all go through in life. Raw is a beautiful coming of age tale, unlike any other before. It is the story of a young woman figuring out herself and the bond she has with her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf).

Raw has the perfect balance of body horror and pitch black humour. The media’s hype of how graphic the film is may be somewhat exaggerated, yes there are moments of stomach churning disgust, but it is handled with such elegance and class, that cannibalism suddenly turns into a delicious nightmare.

The chemistry between Marillier and Rumpf is exceptional. Both girl’s performances are absolutely captivating, Rumpf being particularly spectacular. The film refreshingly doesn’t fall into any trappings of caricature nor does it ever start to feel overblown.

Raw is an extreme yet intimate tale. It is a tender subtle film about family and growth, yet disguised as a stylish body horror. Raw is extremely moving and weirdly relatable. Raw will have you squirming in your seat, giggling quietly, gasping and also questioning are all French veterinary schools this intense?

9.0 / 10

“I’m sure you will find a solution, honey”

Life (2017)

When will people in space learn to keep that shit on lock down?

 A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Slick. Suspenseful. Solid sci-fi. These are just a few of the words I would use to sum up Daniel Espinosa’s first venture into the creature feature horror sub genre. Taut and tense from the get go, Life’s rich atmosphere and striking visual style, mixed with grounded performances delivers an ultimately rewarding experience.

Sure, there may be moments that are reminiscent to previous sci-fi wonders, but it is hardly fair that Life has been so heavily compared to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, Alien. My personal problem I have with the sci-fi genre to begin with is I believe they all tend to follow the same format – Astronauts on spaceship. Alien on spaceship. Alien kills. The end…

Unfortunately, the only problem with Life are the characters never feel fully fleshed out, which is sadly a missed opportunity with such a talented cast. Every character felt rather paper thin, it was as if each character was given one and only one personality trait. If only Espinosa gave us a few extra scenes to really delve into a little more character depth, because Life has everything, except an emotional impact.

The monster itself is a creative gelatinous nightmare, it is completely unnerving and ensues an extremely memorably stomach churning death scene. Life indeed has some flair, the chilly visual aesthetic is crisp, clean and the camera work is handled with elegance. Despite its character flaws, Life is terrific thriller with the perfect ending.

7.0 / 10

“Every single cell is a muscle cell and a nerve cell”

From A House On Willow Street (2017)

From A House On Willow Street aka Jumpscare: The Movie

After a young woman is kidnapped, her captors soon come to realize that in fact they may be the ones in danger and this young woman has a dark secret inside her.

Alastair Orr, a name I am not familiar with but seems to have a few horror features tucked underneath his belt already, delivers low budget horror; From A House On Willow Street, and after this I won’t be surprised if Orr is still a name people don’t know.

What sounded like a promising premise, Willow Street is let down by its repetitive nature and the sad fact that it solely requires on jump scares to elicit any sort of fright. Again, there is a great concept here, blending the tropes of kidnapping and possession into one, but it seemingly unfolds into another substandard horror. It all feels like familiar territory, the characters are one dimensional, the dialogue is stilted and too many things are happening at once. Somehow a film with a slim running time of 86 minutes feels a lot longer.

Scream Queen Sharni Vinson (from You’re Next) ill-advisedly speaks with a poor American accent, a slight hiccup that can’t go unnoticed with such wooden dialogue. The surrounding cast are hopelessly inadequate at portraying any real sense of emotion, Zino Ventura is particularly bad, being his debut acting performance AND debut producing gig… Choose one mate, you can’t do both.

What I did find inspiring was the practical effects, the makeup was incredibly gruesome, but again was too soon forgotten when poor CGI is needlessly used for moments that felt far too extended.

I think this could have been a great little film, if only the filmmakers worked without their means, stuck to one location, lost a bit of the silliness and kept the narrative as a taut claustrophobic thriller. Willow Street kept me on the edge alright, the edge of wanting to switch over to a different flick.

3.5 / 10

“You should really let me go or your all going to die tonight”

The Devil’s Candy (2017)

If Metallica made a movie this would be it…

A struggling painter (Ethan Embry) is possessed by forces unknown after he and his young family movie into their new home in rural Texas.

Eight years it has been, since Sean Byrne’s unforgettable directorial debut ‘The Loved Ones’. God knows why his sophomore film The Devil’s Candy has been sitting on the shelf since 2015, but alas it has finally seen the light of day. Hallelujah!

The Devil’s Candy is a surprising one. What you think at first will be your standard (but, above average) possession movie turns out to be so much more. Part haunted house, part possession, part serial killer slasher and part family drama, Byrne plays with your typical horror tropes but twists them together into a clever narrative that boasts moments of true terror.

Sitting pretty at riveting 79 minutes, The Devil’s Candy narrative is told in such a slick manner, that after 20 minutes of screen time I don’t think I even blinked. The film is visually pleasing from its stylish framework, gritty colour and crazy cuts. The aesthetic is metal as fuck and the artwork is strikingly terrifying. But what really grasped my attention were the performances. Particularly, Embry, he kind of blew me away, he imbues the character of Jesse with equal parts sensitivity and machismo. He is completely credible as a metal head with an obsession of his own art work, as well as having a fondness for his family. The chemistry between him and his daughter (Kiara Glasco) is wildly charming and between them there a few genuine heartbreaking moments.

The Devil’s Candy balances the tenderness with some shockingly violent moments. The script is taut and tight, along with Embry who is unbelievably ripped here! Thank you, Byrne for the countless shirtless scenes. If the story doesn’t hit you, the soundtrack absolutely will, this is a horror with hard core attitude and heart.

8.0 / 10

“He’s right, you are the sweetest candy of them all”

A Cure For Wellness (2017)

Well, this is undoubtedly the weirdest thing coming out from Hollywood.

An ambitious young executive (Dane DeHaan) is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious wellness centre at a remote location in the Swiss Alps, but soon suspects that the spa’s treatments are not what they seem.

Gore Verbinski’s return to horror is a welcome one. After his gripping 2002 entry of The Ring, it is no surprise that he and his team have fetched another disquieting yet elegant horror to fruition, with A Cure For Wellness.

And what a peculiar film this is! It is classic horror merged with the ugliness of todays greedy executive world. Verbinski opens with a very grim and dank city scape of mindless occupants, before moving us to the picturesque Swiss Alps, where the colour palette suddenly changes to every cinematographers dream! The green / blue tinged visuals and perfectly symmetrical framework are to die for.

Heralded by strong performances from all (Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth), the trio of talent had me rapt in the sheer lunacy of the story. With every scene there comes a feeling of suffocation, a sense of suspicion and dread. Undeniably responsible from the crisp sound design that echoes throughout the gothic halls and hits your every nerve.

I could praise the film endlessly, yet it has its flaws. Narratively, the pacing lags at some points, which is an issue for a film with a grand running time of 146 minutes. The final act does shift its tone quite drastically to something you would expect from a Hammer film, which seems to be what has jarred a majority of audiences, considering the previous two hours spent in obscurity. Personally, I was feeling Phantom of the Opera vibes (which I love) so could happily sit back and appreciate the nightmarishly approach.

A Cure For Wellness won’t be everyone’s cuppa tea. Hell, some film critics can’t even seem to wrap their head around the inventiveness of the story and give it the love it deserves rather than the abysmal RT score. What is amazing to see is a Hollywood studio hand over such a large amount of cash to a director (for a horror!) and give him free reign to make this wacky creation, following with a larger distribution. This may in fact be the cure the horror genre needs.

As time goes by, the more I realise that there is something rather special here. The film is absolutely gorgeous, every frame is visually stylish, the imagery is striking and the backdrop is aesthetically jaw dropping. A perfect psychological horror with a touch of old fashion folklore. A Cure For Wellness mixes influences of HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe for a surreal spell, enrapturing audiences with delectable bravura and heart racing tension. With all its beauty, do not forget this is indeed a horror, there’s a certain scene you expect to have a cut away… it doesn’t… and I legit think I nearly passed out…

8.0 / 10

“Do you know what the cure for the human condition is? Disease. Because that’s the only way one could hope for a cure”

Shut In (2016)

Shut In… more like shut up.

A widowed child psychologist (Naomi Watts) lives alone in an isolated existence in rural New England. Caught in a deadly winter storm, she must find her way to rescue a young boy before he disappears forever.

Farren Blackburn’s sophomore directorial entry Shut In is proof that even a stellar cast can’t save a poor script. There is nothing substantial about this film, the majority of time is spent watching Naomi Watts flitter around her snowy doing fuck all. There are actual large gaps of story where nothing is actually happening. Some would perhaps be able to save the film by saying it’s a ‘slow burn’, I say those people are in denial, as this film moves incredibly slowly to absolutely no where you care to go.

It is incredibly frustrating to see such a talented cast (Naomi Watts, Charlie Heaton of Stranger Things and Jacob Tremblay of Room) wasted on such a lacklustre clunky story. The biggest insult for horror aficionados, is to endure a horror movie so unbearably boring. There is a total absence of any thrills or chills and the reveal is incredibly hokey and requires a large suspension of disbelief.

Naomi Watts you deserve so much better!

1.5 / 10

“Listen to what you’re saying, you’re talking about ghosts!” 

Area 51 (2015)

That is NOT how you sneak around a top secret military base, you noisy fuckers!

Three young conspiracy theorists attempt to uncover the mysteries of Area 51, the government’s secret location rumoured to have hosted encounters with alien beings. What they find at this hidden facility exposes unimaginable secrets.

I totally get why Area 51 has been sitting on a shelf for 5 years… From the director of one of my biggest guilty pleasures, Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli decides to follow it up with this? Really? It felt like two very different filmmakers made these movies. PA created such fear and tension in a single frame, so much so it resurrected the found footage genre into the twenty first century. Area 51 is… well… crap.

There are so many flaws with Area 51 I don’t know where to start. It is visually unsatisfying, poorly acted and narratively disjointed. The majority of the film is spent in a very boring build up of the break in and the characters themselves aren’t the slightest bit interesting nor are they even likeable or provide any motives for their lame break in. It all falls apart even more so with outdated action sequences of night vision and shaky cam.

The scariest thing about Area 51 was the severe lack of security that joint has!

2.0 / 10

“Something is pulling me towards the base” 

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

The devil is in the details…

 Two girls must battle a mysterious evil force when they get left behind at their boarding school over winter break.

Previously known in the festival circuit as February, before its title change to the much preferred title of The Blackcoat’s Daughter. Oz Perkins’ directorial debut has finally been released, weirdly after his sophomore film I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House.

There is no question, Perkins definitely has style and an unconventional approach to storytelling, similar to Pretty Thing his debut thrives on moody texture and throughout there lingers a sense of dread. Everything about the film oozes with style, the bleak backdrop of the cold dark landscape is undeniably gorgeous. The sound design is chilling; as discordant violin scrapes suffocate every scene with ominous gravity.

The films real strength is in its three leading ladies, Lucy Boynton, Kiernan Shipka and Emma Roberts whose superb performances create noise for such a quite movie. The story itself in an interesting take on the sub genre of possession although this one is definitely not hand fed to its audience. Unfortunately, the film treads the line of being somewhat painfully slow.

This moody atmospheric slow burner creates a haunting gothic experience and its violence is viciously surprising. Although it isn’t enough for the casual horror movie goer who will quickly run out of patience and not be able to appreciate the remarkable final minute.

6.0 / 10

“Do you believe in God, Joan?”

Friend Request (2016)

Lets just put it this way, this is a film I would maybe ‘Like’, but would definitely not ‘Share’.

When a college student unfriends a mysterious girl online, she finds herself fighting a demonic presence that wants to make her lonely by killing her closest friends.

Simon Verhoeven’s cyber thriller Friend Request is a shoddily scripted horror about the chills and thrills of social media gone evil. Unfortunately, not as clever as the tech savvy Unfriended, Friend Request feels like one of those movies that you are convinced you haven’t seen and then half way through you realise why it was so easily forgettable.

In all honestly, the film actually doesn’t look half that bad and there is a campy appeal to Friend Request that warrants a few chuckles. Undoubtedly the most disturbing aspect of the film is the clever addition of the gothic animation that plagues the overly viewed social media pages.

Unfortunately though the film is let down by unimaginative death scenes, that border on goofy rather then scary. Why the director would think the use of coloured contact lens would add more fright, I have no idea?

Friend Request is another lame gimmicky quest of exploiting social media full of your average staple horror tropes; creepy children, check, dark hallways, check. Worst of all it seemed like William Moseley (Tyler) didn’t even want to be there. Every scene looked as if all he was thinking was “Why am I in this?”

4.0 / 10

“Unfriend that dead bitch!”

Rings (2017)

Pretty much the worst extra credit a student could ask for…  

A young woman (Matilda Lutz) finds herself on the receiving end of terrifying curse that threatens to take her life in seven days.

Its been 15 years since Gore Verbinski’s vision of the Japanese lore of the little girl who kills you after you watch a videotape and I can safely say, 15 years later… it wasn’t worth the wait. F. Javier Gutierrez has done nothing but muddle the mythology of Samara in a mediocre attempt.

What started out to be somewhat promising premise, Rings, is let down with its poor execution of storytelling. With a somewhat strange and scientific angle, the first act of Rings is set in an exploration of science and the human soul, but its seems the filmmakers struggled with what exactly to do with this idea and very quickly the story falls away to an imitation of ‘The Ring’, however nowhere near as visually stunning nor does it capture the icy fear of Samara.

Storyline aside, the film suffers from a lot of awkward moments. Oddly it has two very irritating openings, you know just in case you didn’t get what was going on… The first five minutes literally lead to nowhere and feel as if it was pulled directly from Final Destination. The rest of the film is filled with odd time jumps, weird dream sequences, far fetched visions, little to no character development and some of the worst over expositional dialogue ever.

“I saw Evelyn on the drive in” “No, she went missing 30 years ago” …

Don’t even get me started on the jump scares. I have now seen it all, after the filmmakers introduced me to the jump scare of an umbrella being opened… God I hate myself for actually jumping.

Worst of all, Rings is sadly not scary. The imagery is not as startling as its predecessor, the films lacks the iconic murky atmosphere and Samara is not nearly enough involved in the film, which is sadly a missed opportunity as a majority of the scenes felt bloated with nonsense, whilst meaningless creepy things happen that are never explained, for instance a certain scene involves rain flying upward.

Lutz is a likeable presence and Johnny Galecki (Professor Gabriel) is solid, but the pair aren’t enough to bring any life to the Samara mythology. There really was no need to bring back horror’s scariest monster, nobody had forgotten Samara, and like the dead bitch this script should have stayed at the bottom of a well too.

4.5 / 10

“7:10. I win, bitch”