Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green and John Carroll Lynch
Review by CinemAbysmal
First of all, this is not really a horror movie. Well, I suppose you could call it one, but let’s be safe here and call it a psychological thriller. The Invitation (if you invite it to…rimshot, please) will take hold of your brain like a pitbull to a rubber toy and make you second guess yourself for a good hour and a half. It burns slow, but damn it pays off.
The director of the film, Karyn Kusama, is probably most well-known for her other films, like Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body. When I saw that she was the filmmaker, I was a bit hesitant on even watching this to be honest. I’ve heard Aeon Flux is just god awful. I actually liked Jennifer’s Body quite a bit, but it wasn’t really enough to get me jacked for this one. I checked out the trailer, and couldn’t really tell what was going on but was intrigued enough. And honestly, I’m really glad I did.
This is not really a horror movie because not enough happens in it to make it horrific. Most of the film, the characters are talking in living rooms or dining rooms inside of a really nice Hollywood Hills home. Don’t let this scare you away, though. The acting is pretty terrific, as lead Logan Marshall-Green is confusing and at times insufferable, complementing the serpentining storyline perfectly. John Carroll Lynch (that weird bald guy that always plays that really weird bald guy in movies) is amazing, but I’m not going to tell you anything about his character because he’s that good.
I hope the words I’ve chosen for this review have not pushed you away from watching this film. I know that “psychological thriller” tends to be a bit overused when describing movies, but this honestly is one of those occasions where this term works perfectly. It’s vicious, confounding and has one of the better payoffs that I’ve seen in movies like this. Check out The Invitation on Netflix now!
The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers, The Sacrament
Directed by: Ti West
Review by CinemAbysmal
I originally watched The House of the Devil about 5 or 6 years ago. The first time, I wasn’t all that impressed, probably because I was looking for scares in the classic sense. While I’m not saying that this movie is lacking in scares, it is definitely a slow-burning test on your psyche. The film’s events are set during a lunar eclipse in 1983. I think the coolest part about the movie though, is that it’s filmed like it’s 1983. Heavy grain is visibly present, the score is incredibly cheesy (yet effective) and lead actress Jocelin Donahue is so good. This movie is pretty slow on the buildup, but it absolutely pays off. One more thing that makes this movie imperative: Tom Fucking Noonan. Check out this one on Hulu Plus now.
The Innkeepers is probably my favorite of the three we’re featuring here. It’s more of the classic ghost movie, featuring a haunted hotel and some creepy yarns about its troubled history. West has picked some excellent female leads and Sara Paxton is one of them. She plays the role of the curious, wannabe ghost hunter to perfection. As with The House of the Devil, this movie burns slowly, but the payoff is excellent. It is also filmed excellently, with some tense hallway shots. Jeff Grace’s score is great as well. Check out The Innkeepers on Hulu Plus.
The Sacrament kind of took me by surprise. I, like a lot of people, have grown a bit tired of the found-footage concept. While West spins it a bit different, featuring a Vice News crew filming a Jim Jones-esque cult, it still is a found footage movie. This one is good enough, though. The acting is pretty excellent and I think Gene Jones steals the show as the Jim Jones inspired character, ‘Father.’ While this movie definitely provides a different feeling than the other two, it still kept my interest and featured West’s signature ‘slow-burn’ that builds to a wildfire of an ending. Check it out on Netflix.
Directed by: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci
Review by Eric Scot Lemons
The moment Tim Burton busted on the scene with Frankenweenie in 1980-something, we all should have foreseen that he would eventually adapt Sleepy Hollow, the macabre tale of a man with a horse but without a head who beheads people cause why not? The film has two colors; grey and black. Sometimes blood is played for comical effect, but inexplicably so. Like during an autopsy (kinda, I guess) or cutting into tree roots (tha fuck?). It just isn’t interesting to look at. And I know that Burton is obsessed with German Expressionism and angular fucking lines and silhouettes, but those should not be the entire selling point of a film.
And this is yet another Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team-up. Usually these play along the lines of Johnny playing some weirdo forced to hang with normals, but it turns out this weirdo is wisest among them. Sleepy Hollow, however, is about a normal dude going to a place where everyone has weird beliefs, and then he turns out to be also weird, but in other ways. It really doesn’t gel. There are some jokes throughout playing on police procedurals and how much of the forensic philosophies that exist now were thought of as bunk in the late 1700’s. Also, there are some cool scenes involving decapitation and horses and men, but mostly the film is just boring. And after years of seeing the same shit from the duo, everything felt played out and numb, which is weird to say about a film that centers of cutting fops’ heads off.
Christopher Walken is the headless horseman and doesn’t have one line. An actor known primarily for his voice and he is a silent horseman who looks like young Rick Sanchez with a xenomorph’s grill. You know what else is stupid and makes no sense? The plot. It was witches all along. Fucking witches.
I just would not watch this. There are some flourishes that are fun, but overall, it feels half-hearted at best.
Directed by: Ivan Kavanagh
Starring: Rupert Evans and Antonia Campbell-Hughes
Review by CinemAbysmal
This is a genuinely mean and frightening film. You look at the picture above, and you’ll probably think it’s a typical ghost flick where the submerged body comes floating to the surface to haunt the living. Truth is though, this movie is a straight ripper. Rather than relying on jump scares and things that go bump in the night, The Canal presents a story floating face down in a murky puddle of grief and infidelity.
I am not saying that there are no horrific parts in this. There are some absolutely chilling scenes brought on by ghosts haunting a house. There is a disgusting public bathroom that is repeatedly revisited causing a great amount of discomfort as a Shiningesque score wobbles and whines in the background. There is a tale of a family that was killed by their patriarch in 1902 in the house in which the main character now lives. The director, Kavanagh knows what he is doing to make the viewer as uneasy as possible.
Back to what makes The Canal brutally scary though, is the weaving story of the main character and his wife. The movie begins with them looking at a house, deeply in love and childless, their whole lives together ahead of them. Several years later the film jumps ahead and we are led to believe that the main character’s wife is cheating on him, leaving him with their son. His reaction is genuine and awful and heartbreaking, and I feel this is where the horrible fright of this film lies: everyone’s worst fears coming to life causing an unrelenting descent into madness in the face of infidelity.
For those into haunted house movies, this movie should be quite enough for you. But if you’re looking for a really depressing film that will most likely just absolutely devastate you while some ghosts tease the living, this one is definitely for you. Check out this bad boy on Netflix now. I promise it will affect you in some way.
Evil Dead (2013)
Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy and Shiloh Fernandez
Review by CinemAbysmal
I’m going to begin with a disclaimer: I love the Evil Dead universe. It’s immensely influential upon many things that I really dig, whether it’s music, movies or TV. And it’s based on Lovecraftian ideas which really gets me going. So when I first learned that The Evil Dead was being remade, I was naturally very skeptical. Then I saw the red-band trailer and I knew everything would be OK.
When marketing began for this movie, it was being advertised as “The Most Terrifying Film You Will Ever Experience.” While it definitely was not that for me, this is an incredibly gruesome movie that does not let up AT ALL. The sky honestly rains blood, there’s close-up eye mutilation, a tree literally rapes a woman, and don’t worry, there’s some ridiculous chainsaw scenes. It took a lot of what worked in the original films and turned it up to 11, with more cringeworthy scenes than a lot of people are willing to handle.
One natural problem I had with the movie, is there isn’t an Ash Williams. While I don’t really mean “Ash should have been in this movie,” I really think the film would have benefited from a more badass and likable character. Jane Levy does a great job as the character that was written (a recovering heroin addict), but you don’t really cheer for her like you would with Ash in the original trilogy and Ash vs Evil Dead. And I get it, this is a balls-to-the-wall horror film, but I still felt like I needed a laugh or two by the time this grueling monster was done.
If you can handle it, this is a great movie for multiple viewings. I catch more with every new watch (I’ve only seen it three times), but there are clever, loving nods to the original films which will make any Deadite happy. However, I’m warning you again: this is a relentlessly fucked up film that is sure to satiate the most brutal gorehounds.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Anna Paquin and Brian Cox
Review by Eric Scot Lemons
Trick ‘r Treat is a horror anthology based entirely on Halloween by director, Michael Dougherty. He also directed Krampus and Krampus sucked a lot of dick for various reasons, but I still decided to watch Trick ‘r Treat because I love Halloween and like horror anthologies. As far as horror anthologies go, this is a good one. Each short film is fun and plays well on the traditions generally associated with the holiday. I will now review each film within the film.
The opening was a nice short set-piece that really sets up in gory fantasm what can be expected from the film. While Trick ‘r Treat in general is pretty preachy about either respect for the dead or respect for the holiday, this one is probably the most blatant, seeing a young woman who despises the holiday killed in a fashion befitting the holiday.
The Principal features Dylan Baker doing what he does best, being a creepy as fuck paternal figure. This story, I felt, was too long to really sell the eventual pitch and the comedy, though dark, is pretty one note.
The School Bus Massacre Revisited had the most potential and fell flat. I could rarely understand the setting and the story doesn’t evolve enough for one to care about characters. The monsters are cool and the frights are fun though.
Surprise Party features a play on the Little Red Riding Hood story in which we see Anna Paquin being hunted by a black figure, but surprise, she is the werewolf and he is Dylan Baker being a creep again. The werewolf transformation is cool as shit.
Meet Sam features the little pumpkin-headed motherfucker trying to kill Brian Cox in his house and though the story isn’t that interesting, the sequence is super funny and playful in a gory horror way. The reveal of Sam’s true self is well-done and visually awesome.
Overall, the acting was great and the plot development solid. A great viewing for any October 31st celebration.