Horrorfest 2019 Presents: The Lighthouse (2019, Robert Eggers)

Maybe it is because I have spent years working in retail. Perhaps it is also having lived with a roommate for a spell that was as crazy as me. Might have even been crazier. Regardless, even though I wasn’t a big fan of Robert Eggers’ The Witch, I really liked his follow up, The Lighthouse. I am willing to give The Witch another chance, if only because I didn’t quite realize what I was getting into. Honestly I had no idea what The Lighthouse had in store, which is part of the fun. I did see both of Eggers’ movies in theaters, so I clearly am drawn to his unique, bizarre style.

It also helps that both films have good casts. The Lighthouse features Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two people working on an island. What begins as two men working together descends into madness and leads to events that I am not sure were really happening or not. My favorite thing about this movie is how events spiral out of control. All which happens in the beginning very slowly, and then shockingly quickly.

Oh and Pattison and Dafoe have marvelous chemistry together, acting as if they have done a movie together before when in fact this was their first time working with each other. Eggers uses Pattinson’s smoldering intensity and anger to contrast Dafoe’s older sense of responsibility and steadiness. Naturally both of them crack, yet it seems that Dafoe does first, spewing out a monologue that I wish to memorize.

If you asked me what happens in the end or what the ending meant, I have no idea. I wish to ask Robert Eggers that question. Some aspects of the movie unravel towards the conclusion, however I think I loved this mad tale of two nutters stuck on an island. Tis bad luck to kill a seagull, and to disrespect the ancient elder gods of the deep waters. Also your coworker might be a touch more balmy than you be, aye indeed.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Dark Water (2002, Hideo Nakata)

Due to having seen a lot of Italian, German, British, US and even French horror over the years I have sadly neglected Japanese horror, or J-Horror as fans love to call it. So I decided to view the well regarded Dark Water, of which the remake is only more well known since it is is American. I liked this movie, particularly because Dark Water is as much a moving drama as it is a really creepy movie where very creepy things happen. Some which are only explained later on, which ups the creep factor even higher. I loved the eerie shots of the apartment building, and I was reminded of how horror movies love to use empty hallways to freak out the viewer. Well Dark Water and The Sixth Sense are both great examples of utilizing space and dim lighting to scare the viewer, making them feel very uneasy. It helps that the ghost in this movie is that kind of foreign ghost that does not care if you believe in them or not. Disbelief never helps people in a ghost movie.

Hitomi Kuroki is fantastic in this movie as the struggling mother trying to keep custody of her daughter after a bitter divorce. She is both sympathetic and overwhelmed, dealing with issues no mother should have to go through. Although the movie also focuses on her daughter, I felt that the movie went through Kuroki and that she was the reason Dark Water is such a near great film, one that anchors the dramatic elements and makes us care even as we are nervously waiting to see what happens next. Oh and I rather liked the final act, which served more as a coda than an ending, just because it was a haunting of a different kind. Hideo Nakata decides that living can be a tragedy in itself, and that we may see ghosts of any kind no matter where we go. They haunt us, giving us a window into a past that we often do not remember, and they never go away very easily.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Jack Frost (1997, Michael Cooney)

There are times when I view a horror movie that is goofy, funny, and not at all scary yet I really like it anyways. In some cases the movie is dumb as hell and yet it has that rare charm that makes it hard to resist. In this case I am talking about Jack Frost, which incidentally was also featured on The Last Drive In’s Joe Bob’s Red Christmas marathon months later on Shudder. What a movie. If you want to see a serial killer turned into an evil murdering snowman, this is the movie for you! If you expect great intelligent cinema that teaches you something, this is not your movie. Sometimes I choose entertainment instead, and this is one of those times. Oh and Jack Frost is full of a bunch of character actors thrust into starring roles-people I have never heard of before, even if I might know them from somewhere else. Which is usually the case with horror movies.

This movie has more one liners than any Xmas based horror movie I have ever seen, and also they even made sequels. Will I attempt to track down the sequels at some point? Absolutely, even if they are terrible. I realized after enjoying Gremlins all these years that I rather like a good snow based horror movie, and there are just not enough of them in force today. Probably because ones such as Silent Night Deadly Night were driven out of the cinema by people mad that horror take aim at their sacred holiday traditions. Well that is a damn shame. Give me killer gremlins, evil snowman, psycho Santa’s, creepy phone calling wackos, and of course home alone kids battling evil home invaders. Horror should not be limited to the other three seasons when the forth season is perfect for such cinema.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Zombieland: Double Tap (2019, Ruben Fleischer)

Sequels can be very tricky and history is littered with plenty of bad ones. Also there are times when those involved wait too long to make a new installment, which results in that effort failing. However I liked Zombieland: Double Tap even though it happened 10 years after the last movie, which was a really funny and delightful zombie comedy with plenty of gore. Well guess what folks: this new movie also is a delightful zombie comedy with plenty of gore! They even have super powered fast moving zombies now! Plus Zoey Deutch is a new part of the cast and she is beyond adorable and hilarious as Madison! I guess the critics didn’t like this one as much but when did I and other horror fans ever care anyways?

Alright so there are jokes that do not work, and Abigail Breslin and Woody Harrelson do have an odd subplot that is not very funny. Emma Stone probably could have been left out, honestly, and Jesse Eisenberg goes through the motions at times. However Deutch breathes life into what could have been a mostly cash grab effort that was made to appease fans of the original like myself and others. I doubt we will see a Zombieland 3, yet if we do I will probably go see it. Franchise horror is hard to do, and I admire ones such as Scream for bringing back everyone and finding out new ways to keep the audience engaged. Oh and next time more Rosario Dawson, please. If you actually stay for the credits there is a neat and funny moment that I wish had actually made it into one of the two movies.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Mayhem (2017, Joe Lynch)

Mayhem is gory, over the top, hilarious and often pretty brutal. It is a horror movie, a comedy, an action movie and a nice satire of the evils of the workplace all wrapped into one insanely fun package. Joe Lynch has made a film that even if it covers familiar ground, that film does so in a unique and wonderful style. Give me more horror movies like this one, please. Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving have pretty solid chemistry together, teaming up to deal with being screwed by Yeun’s scummy corporate bosses. Does this movie have tons of excessive violence involving power tools? Yes. Are there plenty of fighting scenes and a huge co-worker brawl? Absolutely. Too bad I never got the chance to watch this in theaters.

Oh and after seeing this, The Babysitter and Ready or Not Weaving is unofficially the main actress of my 2019 Horrorfest. Clearly her family well prepared her to be a good actress, and I look forward to seeing her in more films. And Yeun clearly has a bright future beyond The Walking Dead, although I did like him a lot in that show. I think my favorite part of this movie was the office brawl, simply for the amount of violence but also because everyone has that co-worker or even co-workers they wouldn’t mind punching at least once or twice. Having recently seen myself lose hours because of corporate indifference to those below them in the company structure I like this movie even more. Plus the whole virus angle is a bit more interesting these days, that’s for sure.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl (2016, A. D. Calvo)

As much as I liked Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl I felt certain aspects were a bit too slow burning even for someone like me who enjoys slow burn movies. Oh and I am not sure if this was really a horror movie or not, although it does build up a nice eerie atmosphere that almost suffocates the viewer. I understood the themes of alienation and well, loneliness, yet the relationship between Adele and Beth (Erin Wilhelmi and Quinn Shephard, both who are excellent in this film) goes from being one of equals to Beth exorcising extreme control over Adele’s life. The film’s bleak looking tone was a good touch, as is a few good jump scares that work effectively.

I am not a big fan of the last act however, yet I still think the movie is pretty well made and is really good. Perhaps I was left a bit unsatisfied and I felt that the rest of the movie did not completely support what happens. I enjoyed the quiet moments when Adele and Beth seemed to connect, the parts that felt at home in a movie that would be quite different from Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl. I also was reminded of the cult classic Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, which is a good thing. Based on that final scene A.D. Calvo could make a sequel, yet I like it when horror movie directors decide one is enough and move on to something new.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Bloody Pit of Horror (1965, Massimo Pupillo)

Despite people bashing Bloody Pit of Horror, I actually enjoyed this utterly bizarre and twisted horror film. This movie and others like it helped creature the whole genre of “Torture film,” years before Saw and Hostel became a thing. Sure the characters are merely there to serve as the victims of a madman who has way too much time on his hands, and yes this is really a gore film for gore hounds, but maybe that’s my kind of film these days. Since I watched it for free on Tubi the quality was not the best, yet I grew up in the age of VHS so that did not bother me at all. No it’s the hilariously insane one liners that the villain keeps saying that makes this a deliciously campy and outrageous film that you will either enjoy like I did, or argue that if not for the violence it would be a good candidate for Mystery Science Theater 3000. Oh and The Crimson Executioner is a great band name if I ever heard one: what a marvelous title for a psychopath.

I had to check and see if The Crimson Executioner came back to life, or if it was some new nut job pretending to be him. It doesn’t really matter, anyways: the torture devices were inspired and the opener was pretty wicked. What did we learn, folks: never enter the castle of a lunatic rich guy bent on reviving the Inquisition at all costs. Especially one who has a “Lover of Death” machine. If you were wondering about the one liners The Crimson Executioner spews in this movie, check these out, from IMDB.com:

“You fools! All of you! I am the Crimson Executioner! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! This day shall be written in blood! No man can judge me! I am the supreme law! I shall have my REVENGE!”

“Mankind is made up of inferior creatures, spiritually and physically deformed, who would have corrupted the harmony of my perfect body.”

“The Crimson Executioner invented the torture of icy water for creatures like you!”

“My perfect body… in the poisonous clutches of The Lover Of Death!”

“My body… my pure body… has been contaminated…”

Man this guy was really high on himself. I laughed at the lines, was disturbed by the rather nasty murder effects (the Italians were always good at those) and I ended the night realizing that I actually liked the movie. I might be one of the few who does.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: The Awakening (2011, Nick Murphy)

Even though The Awakening is a tad slow paced and would work better if The Others didn’t exist I still liked it. Based on my past reviews I rather enjoy ghost story movies, especially when they have some good creepy moments, which Nick Murphy’s film does. It helps that the cast is good: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Stauton are the main players. Isaac Hempstead-Wright also continues the modern tradition of having good child actors in movie roles as well, playing Tom, who holds a key to the film’s overall mystery. I actually did not guess the twist although I am sure some will argue it was fairly well telegraphed if you paid attention, but I was just enjoying the film so I didn’t think too hard about it.

Honestly The Awakening is as much a drama as it is a horror movie, and the same can be said for other modern ghost films such as The Woman in Black and The Others. There was a nice jump scare early on at the boarding school where the movie takes place, and Hall is really good at conveying a woman who is really hunting for the supernatural for her own personal reasons. Grief and loss sometimes brings people together, and the truth is not always an easy quest.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: You Might Be The Killer (2018, Brett Simmons)

Even though it comes a little late in the game and is not as clever or as inventive as The Cabin In The Woods and Tucker & Dale vs Evil, You Might Be The Killer is still a nice time waster and a decent take on the slasher genre. I did like that the mask is pretty wicked and actually freaky, and what happens is pretty gory and at times even surprising, although that is due to the film trying to subvert slasher cliches. The movie also embraces those cliches fully, as the summer camp setting and the camp counselors getting horribly butchered is a time honored tradition when it comes to such films.

Sam (Fran Kranz, who was also in The Cabin In The Woods) is a nice guy who is stuck in a bad situation: he has memory loss, and people keep dying all around him. He calls his friend Chuck (the usually awesome Alyson Hannigan), who gives him advice but also asks a question that the audience is thinking: is Sam actually the killer? Maybe….maybe not! I can’t say further, although this film does make me think of that one time I took a Facebook horror movie quiz and it said I was the villain. Whoops. Perhaps I should ease up on the horror movie watching for awhile. Nah, I’m good and besides Shudder is a wonderful service that I can’t stop enjoying…

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Der Nachtmahr (2015, Achim Bornhak)

Look I get that Der Nachtmahr is a feminist allegory sporting a rather obvious metaphor for growing up, and quite possible one that is even pregnancy related. However I just couldn’t buy into this movie at all, and I was left frustrated and disappointed. In fact I am not even sure this qualifies as a horror movie aside from some decently eerie moments involving the creature that the protagonist ends up bounding with. I did like the creature effects so this film was not a complete waste, and the ending was okay I guess but this just doesn’t work as a full length movie. Perhaps as a short film it would have been more effective. I don’t know and I don’t really care. Skip this and watch something better.

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