Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Malignant (2021, James Wan)


After doing big time Hollywood franchise movies, James Wan returned to give us another freaky horror movie. In this case I’m not sure if Malignant is a great bad movie, a good movie, or a complete mess. However I dug this movie a lot, and it managed to creep me out and even scare me at times, which is more than I can say for a lot of horror movies.

Madison (Annabelle Wallis) begins to have nightmarish visions of murders in Seattle. Her sister, Sydney (Maddie Hasson) decides to investigate, and what she uncovers is both shocking and disturbing. James Wan creates a horror movie that is equal parts giallo, supernatural thriller, and body horror movie in one crazy, glorious package.

This movie should be viewed for the cop station scene alone, and also because it’s a giant homage to the films that clearly inspired James Wan. Plus George Young is actually really good as the one cop who mostly believes Madison, and the final act is utterly insane. Some may not enjoy this movie, yet I feel many such as myself will champion it years from now.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Found Footage 3D (2016, Steven DeGennaro)


Even though Found Footage is slow at times, it still has some geniually creepy moments. However it does suffer from the problem all such movies have: why are the people still holding the camera instead of ditching it and heading for the hills? In this case I suppose the movie comes up with reasons why, yet I’ll admit when the shit does hit the fan the people still keep shooting.

I didn’t really care about the film’s attempts at melodrama, and I didn’t recognize any of the main cast either. One of the movie’s standouts abandons the project midway through, and another decent character isn’t smart enough to ditch when things keep going south. Despite this Found Footage is decent enough, and I only watched it in 2D because regular 3D (not Avatar type 3D) gives me a headache.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: I Bury The Living (1958, Albert Band)


Even though I Bury The Living does not stick the landing with the ending, the rest of the movie is pretty cool. You have Richard Boone playing a businessesman who has to oversee a local cemetery. During his stint as chairman he believes that he possess the ability to cause people to die. That is a good concept for a movie, and to have it be a 1950s movie reminds me that 1950s horror cinema is quite underrated. The black and white cinematography works in this movie’s favor as well, casting shadows and building up the movie’s overall atmosphere.

You have Boone’s Robert slowly falling into despair and insanity as he begins to believe he is the cause of people he knows dying. There is a fantastic scene where he runs among the tombstones that is one of the movie’s highlights. Alas the film’s conclusion is too mundane and a copout that happens too often in older horror movies. I do agree with those who say this is literally a Twilight Zone episode turned into a movie, which is fine.

My final thoughts are that my local community college cable channel used to show I Bury The Living all the time, and yet I never got around to seeing it. Thanks to Tubi I finally did and I’m glad because it is a really good old school horror movie. Richard Bone was a cool actor too by the way, definitely one of the more famous stock character actors of his time.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: The Dead Pit (1989, Brett Leonard)


This randomly popped up on Shudder and so I decided to check out The Dead Pit, a late 1980s horror movie. This flick is a much a supernatural Americanized giallo as it is a slasher movie. These blending of elements work in the film’s favor, as does it’s likable main characters. The Dead Pit isn’t a great film, however it is very well paced and is very satisfying. The asylum setting is pretty good, and is very unnerving. The entire movie is appropriately bleak.

The Jane Doe, played by Cheryl Lawson, arrives at an old crumbling asylum with amnesia. Aided by a fellow patient, Chris (Stephen Gregory Foster), she tries to uncover the mystery of her memory loss. I liked how this movie was shot, using lots of green and building up a general sense of menace, hinting at nasty, dark hidden secrets.

Danny Gochnauer is fantastic as Dr. Ramzi, the movie’s evil sadistic villain, matched by Jeremy Slate as  Dr. Gerald Swan. The finale even goes full blown Fulci with the undead, which is cool. Chris is one of those awesome secondary movie characters, and Lawson is a good sympathetic main character. Check this flick out on Shudder while you still can.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Baron Blood (1972, Mario Bava)


While I like Mario Bava’s films a good deal Baron Blood was disappointing. Joseph Cotton and company do their best to elevate really flimsy material that is way too dependent on gory torture scenes. The film also takes much too long to become interesting, and I felt a lot of the film is a drag. This might be the first one I’ve seen from Bava that I have no desire to revisit, which is a shame.

The movie is not a complete waste, as the sets were neat and I liked several well framed shots. The ending is brutal as well, which does help and there is a scene that is quite suspenseful. I just expected more from a movie with a plot this ridiculous. Oh well. I’ll still try and check out more from Bava anyways, despite not having many of his famous films left to watch.

Horrorfest 2020 Presents: Doctor Sleep (2019, Mike Flanagan)


Oh how I wished I had seen Doctor Sleep in theaters when theaters were still a thing. The run time probably was a reason I didn’t go, plus it was released too late for horror movie season-November is usually when I move on to Oscar flicks. Still I found the theatrical cut on Blu-ray at my local library, and I loved it a lot. This is how you do a long overdue followup to a classic movie: pay homage, yet offer a new, mostly fresh story that builds on the previous efforts.

The cast sure helps a lot, too: Ewan McGregor was an excellent choice to play a grown up, still haunted Danny, who manages to overcome the lingering demons of his past. Does the creepy old lady and the eerie bartender show up? You betcha. Kyliegh Curran is another prime example of how child actors are no longer a hindrance to movies anymore, playing Abra, who also has the “Shine.” I loved Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, simply because she disappeared into her role and reminded me of an evil cat mixed with a shark. Also quality character actor Cliff Curtis pops up as Billy, a man who helps Danny-he never gets enough credit these days.

I did like how they smartly re-casted some of the characters from the original, who pop up. Particularly Carl Lumbly, who does a great job channeling Dick Hallorann from the 1980 flick. Oh and Zahn McClarnon was properly menacing as one of the members of the group that is after Abra. I liked how you only got hints and glimpses at them, so that they remained freaky and not overexposed. Too much detail sometimes ruins things.

I wonder if the director’s cut changes some things or adds more to the movie. I will have to get my hands on that copy. For now I am very satisfied with Doctor Sleep, and I actually prefer it over The Shining, which I also love of course. Doctor Sleep covers tragedy and trauma, offering hope that one can overcome the demons of the past. Also grateful the bear suit scene didn’t make a comeback haha. Oh hey the elevator is still full of blood…

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 2016 Presents: The Others (2001, Alejandro Amenábar)


Tragic, eerie, and semi channeling The Innocents, The Others is a movimg horror drama. It’s anchored by Nicole Kidman, who reminds us how talented of an actress she really is, at times carrying this movie. Also it helps that the kid actors are good, and that the film has style and grace. It guilds up its atmosphere slowly and carefully.

There are also strong religious elements, as Grace home schools her children and is devoutly Catholic. Her servants are led by Mrs. Mills, who is equal parts charming, creepy and grandmotherly. Without saying anything truly spoiler filled this movie offers a unique and fascinating take on the ghost haunted house style flick. Few movies like The Others come along in a while, and when they do its best to tune in.

Horrorfest 2015 Presents: Dead Silence (2007, James Wan)


 

Poor Jamie (Ryan Kwanten). He escaped his home town yet he is forced to return because of grisly events. Upon coming back he finds out that the homecoming is also ugly: hardly anyone is left. His father, Edward (Bob Gunton) is wheelchair bound and just as evil as he remembers. Also the ghost of Mary Shaw lingers over the town, existing as a mystery that Jamie must unravel. He needs to recall one thing: “Beware the stare of Mary Shaw / She had no children only dolls / And if you see her in your dreams / Be sure to never ever scream.”

James Wan’s Dead Silence suffers a bit from plot holes and some weak acting. Yet it’s still a relatively creepy and even scary movie that thrives on people’s  (myself included) fear of puppets. Mary Shaw (played expertly by Judith Ann Roberts) though is terrifying herself: after all, she had herself made into a puppet after her death. I also dig Wan’s 1970s horror ascetic and Donnie Wahlberg chews scenery as a detective who is the center of normal in this crazy movie. I also loved the ending despite many critics not liking it or the film at all. That’s too bad since Wan has a unique style is and is a gifted horror filmmaker. Oh well.

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Dust Devil (1992, Richard Stanley)


Operating as equal parts The Hitcher (1986), vampire film and pure nightmare, Dust Devil is a fascinating exercise in style that also mediates upon feminism, urban legends and the past coming back to haunt the present. Richard Stanley sets the film in the obvious dusty setting of Namibia, a place that becomes a strong aspect of the film and turns the movie into a quasi-horror western. The western aspects are particularly strong concerning the Dust Devil, who operates as a mythical killer who feeds upon the life force of those he kills. This ritual is explained by the film’s narrator, Joe, the film’s narrator, in the movie’s eerie opening. The Dust Devil is played with utmost sinister quality by Robert John Burke, who menaces the film’s heroine, Wendy Robinson, played by Chelsea Field, who acts as the film’s survival girl. Although the movie at times features the Dust Devil actually sparing her or expressing a twisted love for Wendy, thus offering a slightly different take on the slasher villain/survival girl dynamic. One can argue that in all slasher movies the villain has a murderous obsession with the unlucky woman that has managed to not be murdered by him (or her, in certain cases). Also I love that this film has cult film and horror actor Zakes Moake as Sgt. Ben Mukurob, a South African police officer who is convinced that the Dust Devil is a supernatural being despite others not believing him.

Although the film presents some apartheid and racial politics unfortunately the film does not properly dive into that issue, choosing instead to be more of an ominous and heavily intense slasher film. This is too bad considering the cast involved and the fact that this movie came out in 1992, yet it still does not prevent me from enjoying the film and considering it to be an underrated cult gem from the early 1990s. Despite the decade’s lack of consistency when it comes to horror movies the 1990s still had some great films to offer, and Dust Devil is one of those. I also loved how towards the end the film references the Mad Max series, and that it does not journey into a cliched finale. I wonder how much Stanley borrowed from The Hitcher, although tales of creepy murders being picked up by unsuspecting victims is an old tale, and there are other films I have not seen that also deal with slightly similar concepts. Furthermore I actually would have liked this film to get a sequel, which is a rare thought considering how so many second films do not always live up to the original installments. I wanted to know more about the Dust Devil, and the last shot is curiously open ended.

PS: I found the so called director’s cut, as the film was originally gutted by the studio that released it. I believe that version is the one on Netflix that I watched.

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