Horrorfest 2016 Presents: They’re Watching (2016, Jay Lender, Micah Wright)


This movie sucked and it was made by two directors. It’s not funny save for a few parts, not scary at all and it’s populated by annoying characters. I don’t mind unlikable people as long as they are interesting. The saving grace is Vladimir, who is a thinly sketched Eastern European stereotype and is still funny anyways. He has the few quality lines in the film. This is that rare found footage movie that I don’t like, and I was disappointed because it seemed decent. The last couple of witch movies I watched I also did not care for, so maybe this particular sub genre is not my thing. Imagine Hostel without the extreme moments or the quality social and political commentary. That is They’re Watching. Don’t bother to tune in.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: The Invitation (2015, Karyn Kusama)


The Invitation and Starry Eyes are both slow burning horror dramas that despite their weaker elements are still solid and worth seeing. They both deal with how damaged people are easily manipulated into going along with concepts and ideas that are harmful to others and to themselves. Both have endings that are a big payoff, and both feature at least one character who realizes what is going on long before anyone else figures it out. I do wonder if maybe it’s California’s history with cults and violence that has resulted in so many horror films being set in that particular area. Noirs such as Chinatown also present the area’s dark side, usually hinting at evil lurking beneath.

Yet The Invitation reminds us also that evil is not so black and white, that is rests in the hearts and minds of people. They can be our friends, loved ones, relatives or people we are acquainted with. Will, the film’s haunted protagonist, understands that all too well in the end. He is cursed with figuring out the reason why his friends and him are at his ex wife’s house, a place that used to be his long ago in a different life. Too bad that he only figures it out later, and that of course the others present don’t believe him. One scene I liked was when Will is screaming in pain, only its internal. His suffering becomes tangible, present to the audience.

While this film takes too long to get going, when it finally does it has a presence that is very engaging. I often wonder if a terrible incident would be enough to push me into coming under the spell of a manipulative individual. Yet I realize that in one way or another it’s easy to be manipulated, to have the illusion of control. That’s a far more unnerving thought than any horror film.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Road Games (2015, Abner Pastoll)


Jack (Andrew Simpson) is a down on his luck bloke wandering through the French countryside. After meeting fellow hitchhiker Véronique (Joséphine de La Baume), things get…weird. After all, there is also a serial killer on the loose, plus the duo has run into a strange Frenchman and his American wife (Frédéric Pierrot, Barbara Crampton) in a mansion in the French countryside.

Using the French countryside as a lovely backdrop, Road Games operates as part thriller, part twisty horror flick. It even has an odd torture scene that is remarkable for being light on the pain. It also has a great electronic soundtrack that for some reason it doesn’t use enough. This film is light on subsistence and depends a bit too much on style and some quality momeets. I liked it, but I felt in the hands of someone better it would have been something special.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: The Hallow (2015, Corin Hardy)


Crafted in the style of a dark fairytale, The Hallow is a decent enough flick that moves a bit too slowly even for me. I did like the forrest setting in Ireland, and the characters were sympathetic enough. I just think that too many newer horror films take a bit too long to get going, at times. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Adam and Claire a couple who have a newborn and have just moved into the woods. One of the locals, Colm, warns the pair that the area is no longer safe and that they should leave. Naturally they ignore his warning and they stay, to their own detriment. Because some folk tales are real. Very real.

Some parts of this film were creepy, other aspects did not work. The movie relies a lot on close setting, claustrophobic moments to achieve a sense of tension and dread. Corin Hardy has an okay style and has talent. I hope he gets another chance to make a better horror film in the future.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: We Are Still Here (2015, Ted Geoghegan)


Barbara Crampton is the official actress of my Horrorfest. She’s been in a lot of famous and notable horror films, one of her latest being the creepy modern classic horror flick We Are Still Here. This film is one big wonderfully gory and frightening homage to 1980s horror films. I also love how this movie utilizes empty and quiet spaces, reminding the viewer how the mundane and the everyday can be truly unsettling.

Anne (Crampton) and Paul (Andrew Sensenig) are a grieving couple who lost their son in a car accident. Moving into an old New England house is supposed to aid then in grieving, yet instead it leaves them open to attack from dark forces beyond the grave. It’s interesting how this film also manages to move across different horror sub genres with ease.

Oh and that last act is truly something else. I didn’t expect this film to be so violent, and I was also amused by Larry Fessenden, one of the few directors to be a decent actor. We Are Still Here is tragic, comedic, terrifying and memorable. I’m a sucker for haunted house movies. This one is more than just that, in spades.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: The Sacrament (2013, Ti West)


This is one of those films where found footage style filmmaking works. The Sacrament is unnerving and although a bit slow is a good and notable flick. Ti West is a talented director who knows how to craft a notable slow burn, and while his latest doesn’t add new ground I like what I saw. He also understands that characters are an important aspect of horror movies.

Patrick journeys to Eden Parish to find out what his sister, Caroline, is up to and why she has only reached out recently after years of silence. Sam and Jake, his fellow coworkers, accompany him, with the goal of making a documentary about the experience. What they find out is equal parts disturbing and sinister, putting them in great danger. I love that creeping feeling that comes from watching West’s films, the idea that at any given moment something terrible is bound to happen.

Some of the acting in this movie is weak and there are certain scenes that don’t quite work. Gene Jones steals the movie as Father, a man who’s grandfather style approach to running his commune hides a strong ability to manipulate people. Due to how the film is structured he doesn’t have enough screen time, unfortunately. Although not better than his previous efforts this is still worth a view as its still on Netflix.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: They Look Like People (2015, Perry Blackshear)


What makes us human? How do we measure about the beasts and monsters of the land, creatures lacking knowledge and operating on instinct? Do Wyatt and Christian ever overcome their insecurities, their struggles as men, attempting to move forward in a hostile landscape? They Look Like People could describe someone puzzling if anyone they know is truly human, a person and not something masking their alien nature under a flesh suit. Once you consider this notion and unlock the doors of paranoia, life becomes terrifying.

While Christian attempts to make contact with Mara, someone who could aid him in moving forward, Wyatt struggles with reality. I love how twisted this film is at times, and yet it basks in moments such as three people getting drunk and having a good time, or two old buddies reliving glory days of old. Perry Blackshear has crafted a wonderful, frightening and modern day urban take on fear and anguish, fights to achieve clarity in a world lacking in solid ground to hold onto. Glance into the abyss yet don’t fall in or linger about. You might not like what you see on the other side.

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Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Hush (2016, Mike Flanagan)


Imagine if you have been deaf since childhood. Then you choose to move out to the middle of nowhere for the peace and quit, which is strange for a person who can’t hear. While trying to finish a novel you are made aware via smartphone that a murderer lurks outside and is stalking you. Things are not looking good. Oh and course he’s cut the power. Even worse. Welcome to the modern horror film Hush.

Created by Mike Flanagan and his wife Kate Siegel, who stars in the film as Madison, Hush is an intense nightmare style film that works as an exercise in terror. We never find out anything more about The Man (sporting a great freaky looking mask) who has decided to hunt Madison, using a crossbow to ensure she can’t make a clean get away. He also cleverly taunts her in various ways, knowing very well that she is deaf.

Even though the last act has some pacing issues I really dug this film. It’s smart, carefully made and is a great modern slasher. Films such as Hush show that the slasher genre can be more than just dumb people being killed in the woods by a maniac, although granted I enjoy those flicks, too. Oh and I liked Siegel-I hope to see her in more horror films, as she has a good screen presence.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Holidays (2016, Kevin Smith, Gary Shore, Matt Johnson, Scott Stewart, Nicholas, McCarthy, Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kolsch, Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns)


From past experience I have enjoyed anthologies. Holidays is another fine modern entry into that sub genre of horror filmmaking, and this one has a batch of talented folks creating short films that range from excellent to slightly disappointing. Usually that’s how anthologies go, anyways. This one isn’t among the best ever but it’s still pretty good, maybe even almost great in some regards.

The first two segments are among the best in the film, which centers around, well, holidays. Valentine’s Day is equal parts Carrie inspired and dark comedy mixed with shocking bleak moments and a hilariously awesome ending. St. Patrick’s Day, which follows, is at first eerie and features a sinister ginger girl. Yet in this oddly wonderful segment, things are not what they seem.

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The next two are less great yet stil work to certain degrees. Easter is creepy and makes you think twice about the Easter Bunny in a horrifying way. Mother’s Day is too much of a rip off of Rosemary’s Baby, yet I did like the payoff. However despite an ending that leaves one with more questions than answers the eerie and sinister Father’s Day is a nice unnerving recovery.

Despite being made by Kevin Smith his segment Halloween is a bit too crude and unsatisfying to be good. I liked some of the humor but I prefer his feature length film style, as he doesn’t seem to work well in short form. The film finishes strong with Christmas, which is a bleak comedic take on the holiday and stars Seth Green as a man who finds out what they mean by “Christmas is hell.” The last segment, New Year’s Eve is twisted beyond measure. I love it.

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The film has an entirely feminist driven perspective that I found unique considering the horror genre is usually described as being aimed towards males. Ashley Greene is the other main star in this film, as most of the cast is relatively unknown to me. I would love to see more films like this that have a twist on famous days or certain aspects of American and world culture.

Horrorfest 2016 Presents: Curse of Chucky (2013, Don Mancini)


This movie kind of sucked. It’s a low budget mess that focuses more on hilarious kills than storyline or good acting. It’s shot in a manner that suggests the filmmakers could not afford a decent cinematographer. Curse of Chucky has its moments yet it pales in comparison to the original classic. I’ve only viewed the first one and parts of two and three. What I’ve seen so far is much better than this latest entry in a long running horror franchise. 

Poor Nica is wheelchair bound and trapped in a house with Chucky, who mysterious shows up at her home and starts killing people again. The film has some moments yet overall I was left disappointed, even though I liked the ending and I thought the movie ties in well with the original series. I’ve seen worse films than this one, and it’s availability on Netflix is why I watched it in the first place. 

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