Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Oculus (2013, Mike Flanagan)

Thanks to Hulu I finally got around to viewing Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, which revolves around an evil mirror. Or maybe it was a cursed mirror? I’m not sure, really, yet it doesn’t matter because the movie doesn’t bother explaining it too much. Which is fine, since the history of the mirror that Karen Gillan’s Kaylie explains to her younger brother, Tim, played by Brenton Thwaites.

Kaylie has a wild plan to destroy the mirror, which she blames for ruining the lives of her family. Flashbacks featuring Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane as the siblings parents are really creepy and very effective, as it demonstrates the true power of the mirror over people. The mirror causes hallucinations, insanity, and takes over people’s minds. That’s a lot for one mirror.

Despite really liking and enjoying this movie, I feel the ending should have been switched around a bit. I do love the final shot, which is bittersweet and very eerie, and Flanagan is one of the best horror directors working today. This was a nice early effort from him. I look forward to finishing his filmography at some point, along with his tv work, most of which is on Netflix.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: The Ritual (2017, David Bruckner)

The Ritual opens with a moment of startling tragedy, then cuts to a group of men out hiking in the woods of Sweden. They decided to camp and hike in the woods, and it’s out there that they discover this ancient evil lurking out there, amongst the trees. The first half of the movie is a slow burn, the second half a steep drop into insanity and death. With normal movies a camping trip is a nice excursion into the wilderness, in horror movies it’s a poor idea which the characters end up regretting only when it’s too late.

Rafe Spall is very good as Luke, the main character of the movie who remains haunted by a terrible decision he made. Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, and Sam Troughton all fill out the roles of his friends, as this movie is one of those small cast tightly paced movies. Despite being slow in certain parts I rather enjoyed this movie, and the final act is rather haunting. I actually want to see this one again and my rating may go up later on.

Plus the creature effects were fantastic, and some parts were very freaky and well done. I guess I’m a big fan of folk style horror at this point, and when it’s done right it is very effective.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: The Wolfman (2010, Joe Johnston)

Even though the original classic is much better I found much to like and enjoy about the 2010 version of The Wolfman. This one naturally has more gore and violence, yet also has some unforeseen elements that come to a head later in the movie. The cast for this one is pretty good, maybe even great, and it’s too bad this movie didn’t perform well at the box office. It’s quite rare that we get a big budget horror movie, and perhaps this is why although more so it’s studios never wanting to invest more in horror movies.

Benicio del Toro plays Lawrence, an actor who has returned home to discover what happened to his brother. Anthony Hopkins plays his father, Emily Blunt the brother’s fiancée, and Hugo Weaving is the inspector sent to investigate what is happening in the nearby village. The werewolf scenes are pretty brutal and have some gruesome kill moments, with body parts flying around and grown men left helpless against a very hungry and hairy evil.

I’m not a huge fan of the final act even though I suppose it makes sense. The asylum scene is the movie’s highlight, as is a gypsy campground that is transformed into a slaughterhouse, all excellent work thanks to Dave Elsey and Rick Baker, who won an Oscar for their efforts. The Wolfman was a pretty solid remake, and it’s too bad we didn’t get more takes on the old Universal Studios movies that were more like this one. Perhaps it’s all for the best, and I would rather see directors come up with their own creations instead.

Horrorfest 2017 Presents: IT Chapter One (2017, Andy Muschietti)

Despite the obvious limitations of it being a TV mini-series in the early 1990s, I rather enjoyed the 1990 IT adaptation. The young cast and Tim Curry were the best aspects of the whole project, and the original mini-series was not afraid to show plenty of violence for being on network television at the time. The newer version that I saw in theaters back in 2017 improves upon the material, although granted this new version of IT has a bigger budget and they wisely split the movie into two parts. Andy Muschietti also put together a talented young cast as well, and his Pennywise is in some ways different from Curry’s take on the character while also being just as scary in his own way. I feel that Curry’s was more sinister, however both versions of Pennywise made you believe that they would destroy you in a heartbeat and also devour anyone and everyone you ever loved or cared about. That is one important underlying thing about the movie and the book’s monster, how if you were not careful whatever mistakes you committed would be your last. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise embodies that aspect very well.

Plus the newer version is unlimited by how much gore and violence can be unleashed upon the viewer. The infamous sewer scene is expanded upon and is far more terrifying, especially since Muschietti wisely slowly unfurls what is happening. Poor Bill (Jaeden Martell) is left haunted forever by that experience, and I really dug the young cast assembled here: Jeremy Ray Taylor and Sophia Lillis are the standouts, although Finn Wolfhard almost steals the movie as as young Richie. Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff and Jack Dylan Grazer also round out the pretty talented main cast, and as I’ve noted before child actors are no longer a hinderance to most cinema: they’re expected to be able to act as well as their adult co-actors. Getting the young cast right was important, as this film and the mini-series both reflected the book in that the flashbacks to the younger days are the best things about all of them.

Although some parts failed to scare me, the projector scene in the garage was pretty terrifying to me and some parts worked incredibly well. Unfortunately even this movie gives into the modern reliance on jump scares too much, so there was some parts that didn’t work at all for me. The lady in the painting was at least really creepy, and there is one scene that is probably one of the bloodiest moments in all of cinema that doesn’t feature anyone being murdered. I am disappointed that the turtle elements were mostly dropped from the movie, although perhaps that stuff was just too weird and not really necessary to advance the movie’s plot. I suppose you either prefer the original 1990 version or this one (I happen to really like both) yet in the end I prefer this take on the material. Besides the original didn’t have Ben professing his love for New Kids On The Block, and that is one moment I wouldn’t have missed for the world ha ha. As for the second part, that’s for a later review…all hail the Losers Club!

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: WNUF Halloween Special (2013, Chris LaMartina, James Branscome, Shawn Jones, Scott Maccubbin, Lonnie Martin, Matthew Menter,Andy Schoeb)

Despite being low budget and taking its sweet time for anything to really happen, WNUF Halloween Special is a solid found footage movie that captures the spirit of the 1980s really well. The funny fake commercials spiced into a supposedly live broadcast on Halloween night make this a fun movie to watch. Plus it’s nice to see a horror movie that’s set on Halloween, as not too many of those seem to exist.

Frank (Paul Fahrenkopf) and his camera crew have set up shop in a supposedly haunted house. For ratings, of course. Oh the ratings! However they get more than they bargained for in the process. The footage by the way is very authentic looking since the film’s creators shot this movie in that fuzzy, old school VHS format that everyone loves to wax nostalgia about.

My favorite bit is the carpet commercials, especially since those don’t seem to have changed very much since the 1980s. Check this movie out on Shudder for its goofy charm, nicely creepy final act and to witness a decent homage to a decade long gone. I wouldn’t mind a sequel to this, either.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Blood Quantum (2019, Jeff Barnaby)

Zombie movies are almost played out at this point so it was cool to have one that has American Indians being immune to the zombie plague. The film mostly centers around a family group led by Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) who have to deal with the outside world falling apart, which is typical for the apocalypse. Even though this movie is low budget, it at least has a good concept and a solid cast. At the same time, I felt that the movie didn’t quite go below surface level issues, and it could have been longer, actually. There wasn’t enough time to further explore the fact that in this movie, the people who regulated the tribe to the reservation were the ones getting sick instead, which is a bleak irony considering that Europeans spread diseases to the American Indians and other native tribes when they invaded.

Oh and the Lysol subplot is mostly just the movie serving up a villain who puts forth beliefs the audience can argue over. I will admit this element did leave me thinking about the movie after it ended, yet at the same time the movie didn’t need someone willing to kill survivors based on extremist beliefs. I got enough out of the whole population control thing from the last two Avengers movies. Despite that I still liked this movie, even though the ending wasn’t really an ending. Too many horror movies do that sort of thing, and most of the time it causes me to roll my eyes.

Actually the more I think about this movie, the less I like it. It took me two days to finish it, and this is one of those films where those involved, the concept and the themes warranted a higher budget. I gave it an 7/10, all of my ratings are inflated anyways and there are just some movies I don’t feel like reviewing. The grandpa was pretty badass, though: he wielded a katana during the whole movie.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Mohawk (2017, Ted Geoghegan)

Mohawk reflects the violent early 1800s era, where a circle of bloodshed and tragedy remains unbroken. Although the film merely scratches the surface of it’s themes and politics, it is still well made and has some really unflinching moments. The final act dived heavily into the supernatural, and Mohawk goes from being a simple survival movie to one depicting a reckoning of sorts.

Okwaho (Oak, played by Kaniehtiio Horn) is forced to go on the run with her two lovers (Justin Rain and Eamon Farren) after one of them commits a savage act of murder and violence. Pursued by a group of soldiers led by the sadistic Holt (Ezra Buzzington), events spiral out of control and result in a final battle that is really brutal. The forrest shots are gorgeous and even though the camera work is low budget I didn’t really mind.

I admire this movie for being about the Mohawk tribe, and for it existing as the kind of horror tale that would be perfect for a campfire. The savagery of man is laid bare here for all to see, and the spirit of nature and the dead sees fit to dish out appropriate means of retribution.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Chillerama (2011, Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green, Joe Lynch)

Chillerama is a dumb, mostly amusing and decent enough send up of old school horror movies. This anthology flick opens with a guy’s dick being chomped on by his undead wife. He then shows up to work at a drive in movie theater showing a bunch of horror movies on it’s final day. If this isn’t the obvious wrap around story to you, it will be midway through. Or you haven’t seen enough movies.

We begin with Wadzilla, a fairly solid mocking of 1950s and 1960s monster flicks. Ray Wise’s doctor is responsible for a man’s sperm turning into a huge creature with teeth that eats people. This is mostly funny and also really gross, particularly in one scene where the poor guy’s blind date almost gets eaten by the monster! If there was one that could be a full length movie while also thankfully being a segment in this movie, it was Wadzilla. If this movie seems obsessed with disgusting moments that cross the lines of good taste, well guilty as charged.

I Was a Teenage Werebear is actually more funnier now I think about it, and it makes fun of movies that I’m not really a big fan of, although I did like Rebel Without a Cause. The songs were actually catchy in this one, and the final act is both outlandish and rather groovy. Also the coach got eaten! Or ripped apart, anyways. So much gore in this one. Lin Shaye makes an appearance in this one, making fun of the stereotypical gipsy woman in werewolf and horror movies.

The Diary of Anne Frankenstein is in really poor taste, although Joel David Moore mocking Hitler works, I guess. This was my least favorite one of the bunch and is thankfully not very long, as the material is rather thin. Legendary Jason actor Kane Hodder pops up as the monster Adolf brings to life, only to bring retribution down upon the Nazi leader.

The wrap around, Zom-B-Movie, is fun and enjoyable mostly because it has zombies and Richard Riehle kicking zombie ass the only way he knows how: with lots of guns. Kaili Thorne was a good final girl, too. Clearly this was made for die hard horror movie fans and those of us that don’t mind a little disgusting humor. Especially considering one short flick is literally a movie about people pooping, which was not very funny. I’m too old for poop jokes, I guess.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Dave Made a Maze (2017, Bill Watterson)

Dave Made a Maze is definitely not your average horror fantasy comedy quirky 2010s movie. That’s for sure. Dave’s long suffering significant other, Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) comes home to discover that Dave (Nick Thune) has, well, constructed a fairly good sized maze in the middle of their living room. Dave instructs her not to enter, and to also call a friend or two for help. Naturally a bunch of friends show up and decide to journey inside to rescue him.

This movie has a cardboard minotaur, blood that shows up as confetti, and unique scenes that have you just have to witness to believe them. Although parts of the movie drag a bit, I was never bored and the movie has a very likable cast. Plus where else can you witness people turning into cardboard? None other movie comes to mind in that regard.

If it wasn’t for Shudder, I wouldn’t have even known this movie existed. Dave Made a Maze is funny, surprising and contains a lot of heart and love that was part of it’s existence. Definitely check this one out for a very unique film experience. Oh and a shotout goes to Adam Busch who plays Gordon and is one of the funniest characters in this movie.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: The Whistler (2018, Jennifer Nicole Stang)

I will admit it has been a while since I viewed a short film, and the last one I saw was also a horror short. Although they usually work well, I feel many of them are just dress rehearsals for a longer feature. A means to tease us for more to hopefully come. I expect The Whistler could be made into a longer film, yet for now we have the rather unnerving short that I liked.

However I really would love if this was a longer movie in this case. I wanted to know more about the fairy tale story and the man behind it all. Also I think the material supported a more fleshed out flick, perhaps one that would be 80 something to maybe 104 minutes. The two sisters were likable characters, and the final shot lingers in my brain quite a bit. Perhaps some mysteries are…unsolved. Yeaaaah! Alright I’m done. Check this movie out.

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