Horrorfest 2017 Presents: Jennifer’s Body (2009, Karyn Kusama)


“Hell is a teenage girl.”

Jennifer’s Body was another horror movie I viewed on Halloween night in 2017, and was also obtained at Best Buy. The Blu-ray copy I got is still in my possession and it had one of those specialty covers they threw on top to get someone like me to buy it. I’m a sucker for blind buys even if they end up disappointing me, and Karyn Kusama’s film is notably polarizing so of course I had to watch it and see for myself what the buzz was all about. I’m not sure it’s the masterpiece some proclaim it and I don’t think it sucks like many do. In fact I just really liked the movie, and I will probably revisit my copy at some point down the road just to refresh my memory about certain aspects. I’ve softened my stance on second viewings over the years and I find a lot of times they give me another perspective and let me know what I missed the first time. Oh and this movie’s script is both a blessing and a curse, with dialogue that made me laugh, cringe, and shake my head at times.

Say what you will about Megan Fox back then or now, she completely owns this movie. Amanda Seyfried is fantastic too and the pair of them have what could be described as a friendship that turns into bleak obsession and insanity later on. Funny enough Johnny Simmons has the normally written for a woman thankless role as the boyfriend, which is one of this movie’s strengths: it likes to turn some horror and dramatic clichés and flip them around. Despite some dodgy 2000s CGI the kill scenes are pretty freaky and the finale is pretty intense. I’m not a big fan of the movie’s opening narrative bit though just because it seems a little too banal and expected, things that a lot of the movie are not.

If you want to view Adam Brody and a bunch of rockers singing 867-5309 / Jenny before they mercilessly slaughter someone, this is your movie (and that scene is bleakly comedic in all the right and wrong ways). Kusama could have probably gone even farther in tackling the sexes, classism and a number of other issues that were perhaps a bit too much for a largely surface movie such as this one. Yet I really enjoyed Jennifer’s Body, and most of the movie will stick with me for a while. I’m actually glad this never got a sequel even though the end credits eagerly pushed for one.

Horrorfest 2017 Presents: Final Destination 2 (2003, David R. Ellis)


Everyone went nuts over Final Destination, yet I was not one of those people. I thought it was a decent flick with some good kills that did have a nifty premise. I actually prefer Final Destination 2, which I think works better as a movie while still having wicked death scenes and also better characters. The first one did have the better cast, as the second installment is anchored by the return of Ali Larter and has A.J. Cook as the person this time who sees the horrible demises of everyone. Besides I find the car crash scene in the second flick to be way more horrifying and memorable, as people keep on referencing it to this day anytime they drive on the interstate. These movies are just slasher films with Death as the killer, and you don’t really watch them for the thin plots anyways-you view them to see awful things happen to nice people. Which is ghoulish and may describe most horror movies anyways. Maybe there’s something wrong with us horror fans? Nah….um…no…possibly…wink wink.

Sure there is a gruesome crushing death in this movie that’s probably the best part of the film, however I found the elevator death scene to be tragic and haunting the most. That poor lady died hoping someone would save her. Other death scenes are way more inventive and resulted in the people dying in ways that lead to cruel jokes about how one little thing can cause a massive chain reaction that ends with a horrifyingly memorable demise. I mean there is a car accident later in the movie that results in the deaths of several folks in a moment that can best described as awfully darkly comedic. Death sure has a lot of time on their hands if these movies are to be believed. Oh and I’m totally viewing the rest of the series. I’m also amused that Tony Todd is literally the mascot of these films, which is pretty cool.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: The Conjuring (2013, James Wan)


Sporting a talented cast and channeling precious classic horror films The Conjuring is a near great film. James Wan seems to have a knack for horror, having also directed others such as Saw  and Insidious. Reportedly based on the cast files of a pair of psychic researchers named Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), this is a really freaky and entertaining movie. The 1970s setting is  a bonus, and I do like how this film answers the question of all haunting films: why don’t the people just leave? As in the good horror films the answer isn’t simple, and the solution may be unpleasant.

Having previously dealt with a creepy looking doll (interestingly the most eerie thing in the entire movie) called Annabelle, the Warrens seem content to rest and spend time with their daughter. However a Rhode Island couple named Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) approach them in a desperate bid to defeat the malevolent spirit that may be threatening them and their children. Naturally there are horror cliches such as the dog refusing to enter the house (dogs always sense the evil, don’t they?) and strange sounds echoing throughout the house. Wan uses plenty of slow burn and intense close up shots to make the audience feel as if they are in the house, and he actually doesn’t abuse jump scares or offer cheap moments, something that too many directors overuse in movies such as this one. Also it helps that the cast is all top notch, as Livingston and Wilson have also appeared in horror movies and Farmiga has a knack for playing both strong and vulnerable. However it is Taylor, who also starred in the remake of The Haunting, who is the main attraction of this movie. She has the difficult task of playing a woman that at first wonders if she is crazy, then slowly accepts what is going on, and in the end is forced to deal with the evil on a personal level.

Thanks to this movie I will never be able to think about a game of hide and seek again, not to mention whenever I hear multiple clapping. Plus I dug the scenes where the Warrens host question and answer sessions with local colleges, as they show footage of some of their encounters. The film even uses found footage style film making at one point with a valid reason to do so, which is cool too. Whether or not the actual incident in question ever happened I’m not sure, yet I am curious to learn more about the Warrens and I look forward to the planned sequel, which will feature both Wilson and Farmiga returning along with Wan, who is a promising young horror film maker in his own right. Also this film has a great original score, something that is worth mentioning as not too many modern horror films have exceptional original scores or original scores in general. This one does.

Horrorfest 2015: The Final Chapter


There’s no theme this year. Also this might be the last one. Maybe. List which is always subject to change endlessly and whenever I feel like it. Especially when Netflix decides to pull horror films before October like they often do. Bad Netflix:

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Netflix Instant Viewing

1. The Babadook (2014, creature feature)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/horrorfest-2015-presents-the-babadook-2014-jennifer-kent/
2. Pet Sematary 2 (1992, demonic)
3. Housebound (2014, ghosts)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/horrorfest-2015-presents-housebound-2014-gerard-johnstone/
4. Late Phases (2014, werewolf)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/horrorfest-2015-presents-late-phases-2014-adrian-garcia-bogliano/
5. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977, mad scientist)
6. Troll (1986, creature feature)
7. Disturbing Behavior (1998, crazy people)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/disturbing-behavior-1998-david-nutter/
8. Nightbreed: Director’s Cut (1990, monsters)-Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Nightbreed (1990, Clive Barker)
9. V/H/S: Viral (2014, anthology)
10. Starry Eyes (2014, crazy people)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/horrorfest-2015-presents-starry-eyes-2014-kevin-kolsch-and-dennis-widmyer/
11. Almost Human (2013, slasher)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/horrorfest-2015-presents-almost-human-2013-joe-begos/
12. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013, giallo)
13. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014, vampire)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/a-girl-walks-home-alone-at-night-2014-ana-lily-amirpour/
14. The Quiet Ones (2014, ghosts)
15. Ghoulies Go To College (1991, monsters)
16. Leprechaun 3 (1995, creature feature)
17. Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997, creature feature)
18. Ju-on: The Grudge (2002, ghosts)
19. Damien: The Omen II (1978, demonic)
20. Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981, demonic)
21. The Fly (1958, creature feature)
22. Dead Silence (2007, killer puppets)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/horrorfest-2015-presents-dead-silence-2007-james-wan/ 23. Deep Star Six (1989, creature feature)
24. Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988, demonic)
25. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995, vampires)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/horrorfest-2015-presents-vampire-in-brooklyn-1995-wes-craven/
26. The Sacrament (2013, crazy people)-I finally watched this in 2016, heh: https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/7750/
27. Murders In The Rue Morgue (1971, slasher)
28. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, aliens)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/horrorfest-2015-presents-invasion-of-the-body-snatchers-1978-phillip-kaufman/

Other Media:

29. IT (1990, creature feature)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/it-1990-tommy-lee-wallace/
30. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986, slasher)
31. Society (1989, creature feature)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/horrorfest-2015-presents-society-1989-brian-yuzna/
32. Murder Party (2007, slasher)-I also finally watched this in 2016: https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/horrorfest-2016-presents-murder-party-2007-jeremy-saulnier/
33. Q The Winged Serpent (1982, creature feature)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/horrorfest-2015-presents-q-the-winged-serpent-1982-larry-cohen/
34. Night of the Demons 2 (1994, demonic)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/horrorfest-2015-presents-night-of-the-demons-2-1994/
35. God Told Me To (1976, crazy people)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/horrorfest-2015-presents-god-told-me-to-1976-larry-cohen/
36. Campfire Tales (1997, anthology)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/horrorfest-2015-presents-campfire-tales-1997-matt-cooper-martin-kunert-and-david-semel/
37. The Conjuring (2013, demonic)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/horrorfest-2015-presents-the-conjuring-2013-james-wan/
38. The Vampire Lovers (1970, vampires)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/07/07/horrorfest-2015its-hammer-time-presents-the-vampire-lovers-1970-roy-ward-baker/
39. The Woman in Black (2012, ghosts)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/03/11/horrorfest-2015its-hammer-time-presents-the-woman-in-black-2012-james-watkins/
40. The Final Terror (1983, slasher)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/horrorfest-2015-presents-the-final-terror-1983-andrew-davis/
41. What We Do In The Shadows (2015, vampires)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/horrorfest-2015-presents-what-we-do-in-the-shadows-2015-taika-waititi-and-jemaine-clement/
42. Phantom of the Paradise (1974, crazy people)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/horrorfest-2015-presents-phantom-of-the-paradise-1974-brian-de-palma/
43. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970, vampires)-https://madman731.wordpress.com/2016/06/27/lets-get-criterion-presents-valerie-and-her-week-of-wonders-1970-jaromil-jires/

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Below (2002, David Twohy)


David Twohy has mastered the art of the B-movie and relies on good old fashioned solid movie craftsmanship. Below is a throw back to old school haunted house movies with a modern twist, although it is set during WW II on an American submarine. After the sub picks up a few survivors weird things begin to happen on deck. Unexplainable and very creepy things. It doesn’t help matters that a German warship is chasing after them, or that the previous captain of the sub died under mysterious circumstances. Even before bizarre events start occurring the ship’s crew is rattled and nervous, which reminds me of a classic submarine movie, Das Boot (1981). This film benefits from its all cast of Bruce Greenwood, Olivia Williams, Matthew Davis, Holt McCallany, Scott Foley, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher. Its funny watching Flemyng, who is British, play an American crew member, and you also have Galifianakis in a rare dramatic role, which he should play more often because he’s rather good here. The film largely relies on atmosphere, which is laid on thick, and there are very few jump scare moments so the ones that pop up are utilized to heavy effect. Also Bruce Greenwood is the stoic replacement captain, and as the film goes on he slowly loses his grip on reality and what is really going on.

What I really also like about this movie is the banter between the crewmen, which feels realistic, and also the fact that Twohy resists many haunted house style cliches, choosing to attempt a movie that has both style and subsistence. Although there really isn’t much else to Below besides some political and social commentary that is not really explored, the film itself is another example of Twhoy’s talents as a director. Plus I really like Olivia Williams as an actress-she has a quiet grace to her, and she has played both sympathetic and antagonist roles in the past and in the present. Plus that ending is wonderfully mysterious, giving the viewer cause to question certain events and wonder about fate, and what possibly happened.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: V/H/S/2 (2013, Simon Barrett, Jason Eisener, Gareth Evans, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Timo Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard)


Having enjoyed the first installment I eagerly viewed the second entry in the V/H/S/ series, which built upon the rather solid first film and was a notable improvement. Also like many other horror sequels this one ups the scares and the level of crazy, resulting in a more consistent movie that works better. Despite its share of critics I rather enjoy the found footage style of film making as it takes the viewer front and center to what is happening, thus making it harder to look away from the awful events happening onscreen. While I enjoyed all of the segments one stood out greatly among the rest and one was a tad slow, although once it got started it was rather freaky.

Of course just like all anthologies there is a wrap around story or a narrator who is presenting these events to the viewer in a certain order. In this case you have “Tape 49,” which is the frame narrative and involves Larry and Ayesha being hired to find out what happened to a woman’s son. Even though this tale is not as good as the others (okay its better than the first tale, but not by much) I still liked how it concluded and it provided a halfway decent explanation for why two people would stay in a seemingly abandoned house, digging through videotapes. Even though this is a DVD and Blu Ray era the idea of V/H/S tapes containing footage of awful events, operating as a gateway into the dark corridors that should perhaps not be explored is a rather neat idea, even if its very 1990s at this point and is rather dated.

“Phase I Clinical Trials” is the first official story, and at first I was not impressed. However it does have some rather effective jump scares and its properly creepy and has an unexpected conclusion. One of my favorite things about ghost stories is how the person refuses to leave even when they should, but how does one escape when they are being haunted no matter where they go? The eye implant looked rather freaky and alien, too, and it offered a halfway decent commentary on experimentation and documentation leading to something the person involved did not sign up for, much less expect. “A Ride In The Park” is a nice, terrifying second story involving zombies in the great outdoors. I liked that this story took place during the daytime, as it added to the overall tension level, and it plays out as a tragedy and a nightmare. Oh and the zombie attacks at the picnic cause flashbacks to the classic birthday party footage from Signs.

Yet the best story and the most famous one of the bunch is “Safe Haven,” which ends up being a quickly paced and really messed up tale about a documentary crew that has the misfortune to investigate a cult at the group’s eerie compound. What transpires inside after a slow burning opening gives way to a descent into madness, extreme amounts of gore, and a conclusion that reminds me of several famous horror movies. This tale is largely responsible for the film’s really good rating, and has been discussed ever since this film came out. If stretched to a longer film this entry could have been turned into one of the most disturbing horror movies ever made, yet it works best in a short format. Too bad the camera dies just as things are getting interesting…

Finally the last installment is “Slumber Party Alien Abduction,” which is also a mad dash to run away from evil forces seeking to destroy people for reasons unknown. Even though the aliens have the look and feel of your typical gray bodied monsters its still a fairly unnerving episode, one that also has a brutal ending. Especially for us dog lovers. Why horror movies kill off dogs I’ll never understand, and for some reason that’s more disturbing than the death of onscreen characters. Which might be a not so good commentary on humanity. Anyways V/H/S/2 showcases mostly the best of found footage films, and is an entertaining, mostly scary, and crazy anthology horror film that comes recommended.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Red State (2011, Kevin Smith)


Although half of this film is an action/suspense filled politically charged film, overall it is a horror movie. The film begins with a trio of young men being tricked by a religious fanatical cult in a scene that is terrifying and harrowing to witness. Michael Parks takes over this film as Reverend Abin Cooper, who preaches to a group of people that do not believe in reason or logic. Having to watch a friend of yours die because a bunch of people decided it was God’s will is a messed up moment that happens in the film. From that point on the situation escalates from there, as the cult kills a local cop and draws the ire of the ATF, led by Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman). These events result in the ATF and the cult fighting each other in a violent struggle that mirrors the violence that occurred at Ruby Ridge and Waco back in the 90s.

Despite being rather obvious with his political commentary Kevin Smith crafts another well made picture, one that in some ways is different from his other movies. This is the first horror movie he has made, and its a good one, right up with his best films and full of surprises. The ending is a bit of a letdown and not all that funny, yet the rest of the movie has some dark humor and the part where one of the boys that was kidnapped attempts to escape is tense and thrilling. Red State condemns both sides in this film, as the ATF ends up bumbling their way through the situation while the Five Points Trinity Church cult gets many of their members killed instead of surrendering in the first place and avoiding the bloodshed. Michael Parks gives a commanding performance and Goodman delivers something quieter and more insightful, especially near the end with his mediation upon the dark nature of humanity. Oh and the actual ending that Smith decided not to go with would have been far more interesting if even more outlandish than how the movie actually concluded. Huh.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: John Dies At The End (2013, Don Coscarelli)


Yes I know this movie is based on a book. Considering that the movie adaption just freaked me out and left me wondering exactly what the hell I just watched, I want to read the book. Damn soy sauce man, or the black oil, or whatever that thing really was….I don’t understand. Viewing this movie while drinking failed to do me any favors: the terror I felt was amplified more by the alcohol. I need to see John Dies At The End sober, and yet I’m afraid to because the movie took me to dark places, areas I didn’t want to go. It’s fitting to watch a movie about a drug that amplifies the human mind, sweeping the brain and psyche into worlds that you did not think were possible to enter into to while intoxicated on beer.

David is the film’s main protagonist, telling Arnie a story about his misadventures. Arnie of course does not believe David, yet David proceeds to inform him about the creepy nightmares that dwell beneath our main plain of normal life. The real world is not the real world, no, for there are other lands out there waiting to be found. All you have to do is inject or digest this black subsistence into your body, thus heightening ones perception and expanding ones mind into the infinite. This what I think anyways, as the film is never really clear as to how this drug exists in the first place. Oh and Clancy Brown knows exactly what’s going on because well he’s Clancy Brown. Duh.

Even though the last act drags a bit this is a film that dives into that special brand of weirdness that you never forget. I’ll remember the random worm creatures, the magical Jamaican guy who introduces David to the possibility that his understanding of the universe is too limited, and that at some point the dog has a better knowledge of what’s going on than David, John, or us, the audience, actually do. Bark Lee rules. Its been too long since I’ve viewed a movie quite like this one, where I’m not sure what is going on but it doesn’t matter since my mind is completely blown and I’m in awe of what is happening. We need more films like this one, not less.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Innkeepers (2012, Ti West)


Even though I slightly prefer The House of The Devil, Ti West’s 2012 film The Innkeepers is a nice followup and was just as creepy. In fact this movie almost gave me a heart attack at times, especially with the freaky moments that kept lying just around the corner. The old inn that sarcastic Luke and naive Claire work at is an excellent place for a ghost story driven film, although granted most hotels, inns, motels and the like are usually perfect for horror movies. As The Shinning (1980) can attest to, and just like in that film the characters in this one are being affected by the place they are working at. The Yankee Pedlar Inn is an old place, and its finally being closed for business after over a century of being open. Luke and Claire are the two low wage employees tasked with overseeing the building while the master of the inn is away. Boredom sets in and they decide to investigate whether or not the inn is haunted by Madeline O’Malley, which leads to all kinds of trouble of course.

Really I love that Ti West specializes in quiet, atmospheric horror, which is why I’m not too surprised detractors of films like these call them “Boring.” Look there are actually jump scares in this one, yet I felt that West was mocking the use of such a device to frighten viewers. There is more humor in this movie than in The House of the Devil, and it works as a slight tension reliever while also lulling the viewers into a false sense of security. A couple scenes are downright spooky, particularly one where Claire and Luke are alone in a deep, black pitched basement, and another moment that I will only describe as being the material for nightmare fuel. Even so at times I found Claire’s character to be a tad annoying, where as Luke made a great foil for Claire and was the best element of the film.

Having Kelly McGillis play a psychic/alcoholic actress was a nice touch, and unlike some I didn’t mind the ending too much. While the last act does feature some questionable behavior I take it as the actions of someone who had become rather unstable, and its therefore a mixture of terrifying and tragic. Unfortunately Ti West’s The Roost is not available on Netflix, however his other works are and I look forward to seeing those as well. I would rather like it if he made a slasher movie for some reason, as West’s gift for making super creepy movies that get under you skin would serve him well there, I think.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The House of the Devil (2009, Ti West)


Despite putting this and The Innkeepers off for over a year even though both are on Netflix Instant Viewing, I decided to finally watch The House of the Devil and find out why so many people enjoy Ti West’s work. He is a fairly new filmmaker, having only made a handful of movies-the earliest according to Criticker being released in 2005-and he’s already gathered some acclaim from horror fans and even critics. The House of the Devil is a well made and atmospheric throwback to 1970s and 1980s horror movies, and the film’s low-budget resulted in it being even self-style just like the same low-budget 70s and 80s horror movies its inspired by. However it’s a fairly original work, and the film is very slow burning, with West giving the audience time to soak in the high level of creepy that underlies most of the film’s scenes.

I love the opening credits, with the young heroine Samantha walking along her college campus, rock music blaring in the background, headphones perched on her ears, long brunette hair hanging over her jacket as she strolls along, unaware that she is about to enter a strange new world. The job is fairly simple: babysitting. Problem is, Sam is not babysitting a couple of kids in the suburbs; no she has been hired by an elderly couple to watch over the wife’s mother. In a creepy old house in the middle of the countryside. Oh and the elderly couple hiring her is played by legends Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. No big deal, right? Well as us horror fans know, anytime you babysit is just an excuse for bad things to happen to you.

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Still West hangs back, utilizing only one really freaky jump scare, letting the audience become further alarmed at what is transpiring, letting the viewer’s get more and more into the movie. I prefer this approach even though at times I felt a tad bored, as the payoff ends up being rather enormous, the climax utterly terrifying. There’s something about a movie that creeps you out the entire time while still holding one last card in the deck, guaranteed to leave you feeling really uneasy after you exit the theater. The Blair Witch Project comes to mind in that regard as well, another movie heavy on atmosphere with a fantastic payoff.

Jocelin Donahue as Sam is fantastic here, displaying a like able presence, being the film’s main anchor and giving it credibility as things begin to turn weird. Also its really cool that West had famous horror scream queen Dee Wallace make a cameo appearance as “The Landlady,” although I wish she had been in the film more. Oh and I love how sparse and yet engaging the film’s set design was, in addition to the use of color. Especially white, which could mean something but I would have to view the film again to decide said meaning. Some things leave you with more questions than answers.

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