Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Did anyone stop to think that maybe the monster is just deeply misunderstood?

A strange prehistoric beast lurks in the depths of the Amazonian jungle. A group of scientists try to capture the animal and bring it back to civilization for study.

Creature from the Black Lagoon is a cult classic that has aged like fine wine. Timeless and elegant this 1954 creature feature from Jack Arnold is incredibly eerie and revolutionary for its time with definitive underwater sequences that play like a mad ballet.

A member of the Universal Monster legacy from the golden age of cinema the Creature is a terrifying (but masterful) creation of half man and half fish, with a costume that is sickeningly frightful. We are gifted with genuinely frightening imagery as we spy the Creature lurking just beneath the surface of water, whilst mimicking the lazy movements of bombshell Julie Adams (Kay) as she unknowingly dangles her long lovely white legs into the grips of a misunderstood gill man.

Creature from the Black Lagoon is terrifically entertaining and is heralded as a memorable icon of horrors greatest villains. This black and white classic not only boasts impressive underwater photography, but also a little bit of magic that shouldn’t be overlooked.

8.5 / 10

“We didn’t come here to fight monsters”

I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016)

He’s not a serial killer, he’s just emo…

In a small Midwestern town, a troubled teen (Max Records) with homicidal tendencies must hunt down and destroy a supernatural killer whilst keeping his own inner demons at bay.

Originally an adaptation of Dan Well’s young adult novel of the same name, director Billy O’Brien brings the supernatural murder mystery to the big screen. With a mature performance from Max Records, I Am Not A Serial Killer is a darkly funny hybrid of mystery, murder and monsters.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is filled with interesting characters, that are essentially unfriendly folk but ultimately have some heart. Both Max Records and Christopher Lloyd do well to tug on the audience’s heart strings and evoke a sense of sympathy. All round the performances are excellent, with a peppering of wry humour. However, the film is a bit of a slow burner with a rather shocking revelation early on, that unfortunately leaves the second half of the film to suffer with slow pacing.

I Am Not A Serial Killer plays with some interesting dark themes with dry humour. Billy O’Brien blends quirky and creepy rather well and creates a unique little film with an original narrative, that regrettably just isn’t inspiring enough to ever hold for a re-watch.

6.0 / 10

“I have rules to keep me normal and to keep everybody else safe”

The Void (2017)

Think Carpenter meets Lovecraft… The Thing meets Silent Hill…

Shortly after delivering a patient to an understaffed hospital, a police officer experiences strange and violent occurrences seemingly linked to a group of mysterious hooded figures.

Directing duo Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski take the audience on stylish throwback to sci-fi horror mysteries of the 1980s. The Void is absolutely wild for its use of practical effects. It is a total breath of fresh air to see some practical effects, when recently it feels like we live in a world of cinema where everything has to be created via CG.

The design for this movie is so spot on. From the get go there is a grungey atmosphere settling over a semi abandoned hospital, surrounded by nightmarish hooded figures. It is total lovecraftian territory. But it is the monsters that steal the show. You can never quite grasp what it is that you are looking at, no doubt a budgetary decision to cast the creatures in shadow, but you see enough gore and gooiness to be pleasantly terrified.

It’s true the filmmakers respectfully relish in their own true style, but that’s about all that The Void has going for it. The mythos is a little all over the place and the narrative is muddled and becomes far too ambiguous in its climatic reach. The performances are all pretty bland, but there are moments of hilarity that save this creature feature.

The Void is a nostalgic throwback of low budget 1980s horror. It’s a little cheesy, but good cheesy and I think the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing here. The Void has got mad style, but unfortunately it’s a case of style over substance.

7.0 / 10

“Statistically you’re more likely to die in a hospital than anywhere else”

Red Billabong (2016)

This is what I imagine a Home & Away Halloween special to look like…

In the Australian Outback, two brothers discover old secrets and family lies. As their friends start to go missing they fear they are being stalked by someone or something. But is it just a hoax?

Luke Sparke’s directorial debut, Red Billabong, is terrifying… Terrifying because Sparke’s has quoted he spent seven years fine tuning the script… Really? I personally think it could have been a passable film if the director cleaned up the script, chose practical effects instead of digital and made it much shorter. I mean it’s a joke that this creature feature runs for 113 minutes, at best it is an 85-minute flick.

The film is full of awkwardness and lacklustre direction, the majority of the time the actors look lost in their scenes. No doubt the cringey dialogue doesn’t help. Never have I heard in my life someone exclaim “Let’s get to the partying”.

The characters are deeply unlikeable and cliché. The females are vapid and struggle to think on their own, whilst the men are sexist and have zero redeeming features. The dog is great though.

The problem with Red Billabong is it tries to hard. If you don’t have the budget to do CGI well, don’t do it all, there is nothing wrong with choosing practical effects. Hell, I prefer it! The actual design of the monster is horrible and we see far too much of it towards the end, embarrassingly to much. Take note Mr Sparkes – less is more!

Unfortunately, the interesting indigenous folklore isn’t enough to ignore the unlikeable characters, amateur script writing and laughable CGI. The scariest moment for me was the post credit scene stating… “The Bunyip will return” … Like, can you not?

2.0 / 10

“You don’t know what’s out here. Lions and tigers and bears.” 

The Monster (2016)

The Monster aka The Metaphor.

A mother (Zoe Kazan) and daughter (Ella Ballentine) must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road.

Similar to his earlier frightening flick, The Strangers, Bryan Bertino is back with his third feature film, The Monster, focusing again on a smaller story with two sole characters and one location. Lean, mean and executed with style, The Monster hits you right in the feels with this sad tale of a mother and daughter in the centre of a creature feature.

The story is simple, but for those expecting a traditional monster movie will be displeased, because despite the title of the film, the monster here is not necessarily what you expect. A good majority of the film is spent developing its two leading ladies. Bertino lets his scenes breath and build a good deal of suspense before leading to tumultuous ending.

The true brilliance of The Monster is the emotional performances from Kazan and Ballentine. They are both unforgiving and cruel towards each other. The toxic relationship between the two is so severe it’s gut wrenching to watch at times. The film is peppered with flashbacks that are downright heartbreaking, a specific scene stands out involving the two screaming at each other outside their house in their quiet neighbourhood. Kazan violently and repeatedly screaming at her young daughter “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! FUCK YOU!” is a desperately sad moment but sharp as hell.

There perhaps is an overuse of flashback scenes, as it’s quickly realised this isn’t the normal mother-daughter relationship. The aggressive violent memories are mirrored with fleeting tender present moments between the two, making it all the more dismal.

The Monster is a well scripted, superbly acted heartfelt compelling monster movie. It is glossy and beautifully shot, its saturated blacks and murky colours draw you into a very intimate horror movie. Let not forget this is a monster movie, and although some may feel cheated from the narrative, if the drama doesn’t get you the practical effects and visceral action will have your heart pounding.

8.5 / 10

“Lets go back to the car”

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”

Lights Out (2016)

Admittedly I hate walking around the house at night turning off all the lights because I begin to spook myself that I will see someone standing there in the shadows… So, it is as if the filmmaker delved into my mind, saw my greatest secret fear and put it up on the big screen.

When her little brother, Martin, begins experiencing the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity attached to her mother, Sophie.

Based on the acclaimed three minute short of the same name, David F Sandberg effectively expands his original short to a clever and dramatically interesting 80 minute feature film debut. It is clear Sandberg has talent for devising spooky situations, while effectively keeping the humour light. Lights Out immerses you into a very moody stylish world, that has a touch of J Horror swagger. The stylish sequences are aesthetically hair raising and exceedingly entertaining.

A perfect mix of family drama and horror. The performances are fright fuelled and unsettling. Both Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello are exceptional here, Palmer is the gorgeous strong alternative lead and Bello is the convincingly haggard and unbalanced mother. Following the trend of the 2014 hit The Babadook, Lights Out steps into similar territory by treating mental health as the real monster. Without going into too much detail, Diana is a creature of darkness, metaphorically and literally.

My only real issue with Lights Out is that there is quite a vagueness to the actual story, it never really explains what exactly Diana is. In saying so, I felt the monster didn’t abide by its own rules, ultimately leaving the lore a little messy.

Lights Out perfectly exploits our fears of the dark, with skilful chills and intelligent jump scares, Sandberg doesn’t disappoint and delivers an exceptional debut monster movie.

9.0 / 10

“Every time I turn off the lights… there’s this woman… waiting in the shadows” 

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”