Demon (2015)

Wedding Crashers: Ghost Dimension…

A bridegroom is possessed by an unquiet spirit in the midst of his own wedding celebration.

It feels unfortunate to start a review for a film I adored, to read the news that the director, Marcin Wrona, sadly committed suicide whilst this film was no doubt shining brightly in the film festival circuit. What Wrona has done with Demon is not only create a dramatic twist on the possession subgenre, but have it laced with Polish history and political messages, all the while looking absolutely beautiful.

Demon is 2015 Polish film that is enticing from start to finish. All through out the film there is a sense of unease and everything just feels a little off… Its earthy sepia tones are hypnotic, the wedding itself holds a soft elegant touch of lighting, which contrasts nicely with the dark grittiness of the storm that carries on just outside the doors. The cinematography here is one of the nicest I have seen, it builds such atmosphere that the film begins to sink in your skin.

There are sparks of dark humour that effortlessly blend into the macabre events of the evening and leading man Itay Tiran (Piotr) delivers one of the finest performances I’ve seen in a horror. Tiran undergoes an incredible and physical transformation over the film, that at time feels gut wrenching to watch, but it is played well against the humorous in-laws who are working over time to keep party guests convinced that everything is fine.

Demon is both gripping and sad. Whilst wrestling with cultural conflict Wrona brings an atmospheric ghost story that holds one of the best physical performances in the genre. A somewhat ambiguous ending results in a rather anticlimactic ending, but regardless this is a film that is going to sit underneath your skin for days.

8.5 / 10

“Is it possible… a spirit of a dead person… can appear before us?”

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The Orphanage (2007)

 

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A woman (Belen Rueda) brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.

Stepping back into 2007, J.A Bayona delivered an exceptional directorial debut with producing partner Guillermo Del Toro with the Spanish chiller, The Orphanage.

What could only be deemed as a beautifully crafted haunted house horror The Orphanage is a merited cult classic that is genuinely chilling, exceptionally detailed and most importantly a clever script that delves not only into spooks but into the real terrors of loss, bereavement and parental responsibility. Not only is the script remarkable, but the cinematography is gracefully breathtaking and the movie is soaked in a constant rich tense atmosphere.

Belen Rueda is riveting here and while constantly dealing with her ghosts that are both literal and figurative, Rueda always seem to be on the edge of an emotional breakdown.

The Orphanage is an emotional horror that surely packs a punch in its final act. It has all the clichés there, but Bayona handles them with such care and elegance that at its core this haunting ghost story is not only beautiful but tremendously sad.

 7.5 / 10

“Seeing is not believing. It’s the other way around. Believe, and you will see”

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”

Train To Busan (2016)

Think of Snowpiercer… but with zombies.

When a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on train from Seoul to Busan.

Sang-ho Yeon hits you right in the feels with this thrillingly unique zombie flick. Normally, I am not a supporter of zombie films, what I usually deem as an exhausted sub genre, I will gladly eat my words here as Train To Busan is totally reinvigorating and surprisingly super emotional. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Korean horror is fast becoming a favourite of mine, there is a fresh vibrancy seen amongst their genre films that isn’t seen or felt elsewhere.

Prepare for Train To Busan to reach into your ribcage and rip your heart out. With a story amassed with colourful characters it’s only too soon we grow to learn and love each one – the high school baseball team, the homeless gentleman, a young pregnant couple, two old gossiping ladies and even an uptight businessman. The characters are well developed and storytelling twists your idea of you will go and who will stay and how. By the end of the film I was a blubbering mess, even if it tended to be a tad melodramatic.

The action of the film is admirably stylish. With skilful choreographed action these zombies are ruthless and quick and swam together at a ferocious pace. Reminiscent of World War Z’s rushing zombie hordes, yet here they almost resemble J Horror creatures in their insect like movement, contorting in an unnatural way during their ravenous pursuit as they force their way through walls and doors with sheer weight in numbers.

Train To Busan’s fast pace, keeps the story increasingly heightened and the tension seemingly grows from hopeless to impossible. A particular stand out sequence involves a motley trio who must make their way through the hordes of three different carriages using only minimal weapons and the cover of dark provided by tunnels – which is where we are given a unique twist for the zombies.

Train To Busan is lean and gritty and pulls on the heartstrings. It’s a breath of fresh air for a genre that is at time suffocating.

8.5 / 10

“Everyone is dead”

The Wailing (2016)

I think Korean horror is becoming a new favourite sub genre of mine…

A stranger arrives in a rural village and soon after a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman is drawn into the incident and is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter.

There is no other way to describe Hong-jin Na’s film then the word epic! I loved this movie so damn much. It has absolutely everything that you want – quirky humour, horror, suspense, mystery, good, evil, ghosts, shamans, rituals, even a little bit of zombie-ness and a dash of B movie flair. Do not let the length of this movie scare you away. The film justifies its imposing length of 156 minutes with atmospheric chills that relentlessly become darker and darker and a plot that is incredibly unpredictable.

This South Korean gem is a cleverly constructed mystery whilst being deliberately disjointed… the film is almost too crazy for its own good. Na manages to avoid all horror tropes of shock cuts and jump scares, nor are there scenes built around a single chill, rather it’s just one long continuous stream of rabid madness.

The film is gorgeous, there are some beautiful scenic location contrasted against the cluttered rural village. The first hour Na wins the audience over by creating a lovable dim witted police officer, Jong-Goo (Do Won Kwak), before turning him into a very dark and malicious character who will go to any lengths to help his daughter. This is where the films first half of humour quickly falls away and Na does well to introduce east Asian mythology, religion and rituals.

It’s absolutely mesmerizing from the look and feel, its atmospheric suspense encapsulates you and works in a horrendous fashion, slowly incapacitating you like a virus, so in its final minutes you already feel utterly damage and exhausted. Even the thunderous shamanistic rituals are hard to handle, and not just because they are appropriately loud, but visually it becomes chaotic and stressful.

From the moment it started to the final scene, I had no clue as to what was happening, who was good or who was evil? It is almost impossible to turn your brain off during the film, throughout the story you are left guessing, and in its final act, like the protagonist, you are plunged into an inferno of doubt and helplessness as you race to quickly try and piece the puzzled story together before its reveal.

The Wailing is visually graceful while horrifyingly fascinating, but best of all the story is just so good, and the acting is perfect. Prepare to have the wits scared from you and your heart broken in this unpredictable masterpiece. There is a looseness here that is missing from mainstream horror, a sense that absolutely anything can happen.

9.5 / 10

“Not everything that moves, breathes, talks is alive”

 

The Host (2006)

Why did it take me so long to finally watch this?

 A monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River and focuses its attention on attacking and capturing people. One victim’s family must do what they can to rescue their loved one back from its clutches.

Bong Joon-Ho’s 2006 South Korean monster movie, The Host, is understandably a cult classic. In Bong’s world tragedy and comedy can happily co-exist without diminishing each other, it’s a superbly well crafted film, dealing with the most abrupt tonal shifts. The Host combines scares, laughs and political satire into a riveting monster movie that isn’t just horror but a surprisingly sombre drama about a dysfunctional family.

The CG doesn’t quite hold up after 10 years, but don’t let the cheapness stir you away. This is not a movie to be written off by outdated effects. Rather the opposite, there is a certain bit of bizarre charm and the attitude of a low budget B grade monster movie. One thing for sure though is it’s smarter than your average Hollywood monster blockbuster.

The Host is feverishly imaginative. If you can successfully merge comedy, drama and horror into one story you have something magically. Understandably, the mixed genre may not please all audiences but if you are to abandon it at least stay for the opening twenty minutes. It is by far one of the greatest flee in daytime panic crowd scenes, its absolutely sensational.

There is sweetness at the core of The Host, it is the offspring of a 50 / 60s Science Fiction picture in which exposure to some form of radiation results in very large and ghastly fault. At times funny and other moments terribly sad, The Host is a well acted, superbly shot stylish monster movie. This berserk creature feature truly is a shock of delight.

9.0 / 10

“The Han River is very broad, Mr Kim. Let’s try to be broadminded about this. Anyway, that’s an order. So, start pouring”

The Raid 2: Berandal (2014)

The Raid 2: Berandal steps up in scope and territory but doesn’t hold up to the novelty of its predecessor. A bulkier and slower set up then the first film, the sheer inventiveness of carnage will kill you enthralled but the intensity falls flat when the action stops.

Only hours after the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover with the thugs of Jakarta, planning to bring down the syndicate and uncover the corruption within the police force.

Gareth Evan’s follow up martial arts spectacular doesn’t disappoint with its heavily precise choreographed action. An early prison riot scene is startlingly harsh, as the roving camera hurtles between mud slathered combatants. The virtuosic camerawork mares well with the high energy plot and the over the top violence, a kitchen set showdown and a dizzying car chase sequence are among the best action set pieces seen in modern cinema.

While it’s a visual feast to experience, it has its flaws. I wanted to love this movie, but with a plot that’s a bit superfluous and a little on the long side, the pacing issues are really detrimental and the film just doesn’t possess the same charm from the original.

Running at 150 minutes, the jaw dropping action sequences are worth it in the end. Remaining stylish in a blur of insane brutality, The Raid films are unquestionably on a whole other level to anything else in the action genre.

6.5 / 10

“Only a fool argues for the pride of a dead man”

The Raid: Redemption (2012)

The Raid: Redemption is a no frills all thrills inventive action flick. Breathlessly visceral with creative cinematography and astounding marital arts choreography. There are no dull moments in this pulse pounding cult classic.  

Set in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia, a SWAT team becomes trapped during an apartment building raid. Run by a ruthless drug kingpin, its not long before the halls are littered with with his army of killers and thugs.

Gareth Evan’s noisy blood lusting crowd pleaser is a stylistic throwback to the grindhouse genre. It is expertly paced with ferocious tenacity. Evan’s never runs out of inventive ways to kill somebody.

A little late to the party with this one… let’s not lie, we all have that list of movies that we know we should have seen, but haven’t yet. Action is a tricky genre to hold my interest, most times I find it becomes repetitive and uninteresting. Fortunately, The Raid does not fall into that trap. The Raid is a true triumph of marital arts choreography, the camera work dances around the fight sequences in long wide combative takes. The scores pulsing synth does well to play embellish the playful use of set design allows the camera to impressively follow the action everywhere it goes – dropping through floors, circling around doorways and walls.

The plot is simple enough, get in, get out. It doesn’t weigh down what the film is really about. A showcase of the impressive martial art of pencak silat. My only question for the film would be in the title itself. The Raid: Redemption? Who or what is redeemed?

The Raid: Redemption is brutal and bloody. So relentless in its action, it’s a never ending visual spectacle.

8.0 / 10

“Pulling the trigger is like ordering takeout”