Horror Movies

31 Days of Horror – ‘The Invitation’

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The Invitation

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!

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31 Days of Horror – ‘Ti West Triple Feature’

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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.

31 Days of Horror – ‘Eight Legged Freaks’

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Eight Legged Freaks

Directed by: Ellory Elkayem

Starring: David Arquette and Scarlett Johansson

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

I love a good B-horror film. One that rides the line of camp and comes out with something both exciting and fun. It is a difficult genre though, for every Tremors you get four Sharknados. You expect the CGI to be bad, which in Eight Legged Freaks, it is. But not too bad for a film out of 2002. You got David Arquette, a sort of random crown prince of cult-ish horror after the Scream flicks and having written and directed The Tripper, a sort of ode to 80s slasher flicks that has Ronald Reagan like figure as the slasher. But in this movie, like many, he sucks. His line delivery felt like it came after a long trailer weed nap.

That being said, I really dug this movie. It was corny, but pretty funny in parts. In many ways, it felt like one of my favorite films, Slither, albeit only in tone and not in plot or quality. It really is an amalgamation of many different cool horror flicks. It takes place partially in a mall like Dawn of the Dead, and partially in a mine like My Bloody Valentine. The way they picked off their prey by sneaking into their homes felt like Arachnophobia, but on a comically larger scale. My one major complaint in the film that just got too annoying was they gave the spiders voices that sounded half the time like a mogwai and half the time like a minion. I don’t need a high-pitched squirrel voice from a spider to know it hates being shot.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants to watch some fun bullshit in which they know what will happen and they don’t have to think about it, but it is cool to see spiders take out tanker trucks and pile into malls and get shot. It isn’t perfect or really great in any feasible way, but you’ll enjoy it, especially with the help of alcoholic beverages or inhaled cannabis smoke

31 Days of Horror – ‘Scanners’

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Scanners

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Stephen Lack and Michael Ironside

Review by CinemAbysmal

OK, so maybe this is not technically a horror movie in the classic sense. However, it is a David Cronenberg film so it’s unsettling enough at every turn that it feels like a horror movie. There are certainly parts that are horrifying; the infamous head explosion, for instance. Really though, this is just an intense movie all around. There isn’t a whole lot of dialogue, but Cronenberg lets the film breathe, not really punching everything up until the very end.

This is my first time seeing this movie. I know a lot of people reading this probably already have, but I just never got around to it. I really enjoy a lot of Cronenberg films, (ExistenzA History of ViolenceNaked Lunch, the list goes on and on), so I’m not sure why it took so long to watch it. After finishing, I really wish I watched it sooner. The effects (for 1981) are absolutely amazing and disgusting, the pacing is strange but in a way, beautiful and god dammit, Howard Shore’s score is haunting and perfect for the movie.

One complaint I must lodge, is the main character, Cameron’s (Stephen Lack) acting. It’s so unbearable to hear him speak, that you can’t help but feel disconnected from the story for a good portion of the film. His lines are hamfisted and even his most general of reactions are not even convincingly human. That’s alright though, because the fantastically vicious Michael Ironside is there to balance out the awfulness with his creepy villain, Darryl Revok. Ironside is incredible in this and really carries the movie all the way to the end.

Cronenberg is a weird dude. Maybe it’s because he’s deeply Canadian, but that’s alright with me. I dig the hell out of the Canadians. From The Kids in the Hall to Denis Villenueve to Ivan Reitman, some of my favorite works come out of that wonderfully beautiful country. And after watching Scanners, I’ll just have to add another one to that ever-growing list.

31 Days of Horror – ‘2001 Maniacs’

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2001 Maniacs

Directed by: Tim Sullivan

Starring: Robert Englund and Lin Shaye

Review by Carson Labish

There’s a reason you’ve never heard of this movie. If slasher movie tropes, lighthearted southern racism, or 5 minute sex montages are your thing, I would still not recommend this movie. The only reason I watched it in the first place, was because Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger) is in it. This wasn’t enough to save anything about it. The whole thing is really a mish-mash of nods to original and better horror films, except done poorly and for no other reason than to try and fool the watcher into thinking “it’s like that good movie, so I guess this is good too”.

The whole movie is basically broken down to a bunch of college students on their way to X spring break destination, turned down the wrong road and ended up where they don’t belong. That’s literally the entire thing. The thing with slasher movies, of course, is that you never really root for the victims, you root for the villain. There’s nobody to root for here. The characters are all bland and hard to tell apart, and every single one of the female characters talks almost exclusively in sexual innuendos and puns…..about sex. Really, all you are watching for are creative kills and gruesome deaths. I can’t really say there is much of either with this movie. Each of the characters killed is almost done in a formula. They are led off by one of the townsfolk, and end up in some kind of complex trap that kills them. That sounds kind of cool, but it isn’t.

Did you say you wanted awkward racism spread throughout the 86 drudging minutes of the movie? You got it! There are several shoehorned scenes of Robert Englund rambling on about how the south would rise again, and how they would “teach them Yankees.” I lost count of confederate flags flapping around the entire time. I guess they really wanted you to know this town was full of civil war buffs.

If you want to recreate the experience without watching the movie, watch Nightmare On Elm Street 2 and listen to Larry The Cable Guy stand up at the same time.

Fun Facts about 2001 Maniacs:

  • There were only like 40 people that played the 2001 townsfolk, and the other 1961 were chroma-keyed in occasionally.
  • Eli Roth has a cameo as a hitchhiker with his dog, Doctor Mombo, so technically this movie is a semi prequel to Cabin Fever.
  • Kane Hodder (Jason Vorhees) is in a single scene playing one of the townsfolk during the climax of the movie. His character’s name is “Jason”.

31 Days of Horror – ‘At the Devil’s Door’

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At the Devil’s Door

Directed by: Nicholas McCarthy

Starring: Ashley Rickards and Naya Rivera

Review by CinemAbysmal

This a strange fucking movie. Not exactly in the good way, either. The acting is pretty underwhelming, the dialogue is laughable and it seems to be pieced together by a drunk person. However, there almost seems to be an underlying intent to all of this as the movie stumbles along.

What we have with At the Devil’s Door is a good enough horror film. It plays on concepts from other movies such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, while mixing in some haunted house jumps. There’s even a mysterious girl donning a red rain jacket, which immediately reminded me of the creeptacular Don’t Look Now. There are some genuine frights in this and the Satanic storyline is actually pretty damn unsettling. It’s also really pretty. A lot of the shots are bathed in a greyed out palette and McCarthy is particular with his use of bright colors to surprise the eyes. He’s also very careful about his use of the devil in this. He is shown many times, a tall man with horns, but he is always blurry and it’s creepy as all hell.

The timeline in this film is probably the most distracting part. It begins with a teenage girl in the 1980’s and jumps around between then and now, but it feels forced and does not really come natural at all. I already mentioned the acting, but I think it’s worth talking about again. Most of it is pretty god-awful, and I can’t really tell if McCarthy meant for the hamfisted presentation of it all. I really think this would be a legitimately good movie if the dialogue was more carefully written and he grabbed some better actors.

At the Devil’s Door is currently streaming on Netflix. If you are into jump scares and some pretty damn good satan-soaked evil, this will probably satisfy you. It tends to move at a snail’s pace sometimes, but it really is a pretty vicious horror film. It’s just not that good of a movie-movie.

‘CinemAbysmal: The Podcast’ Episode 2

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The new episode of CinemAbysmal: The Podcast is out for all your aural pleasure! Holly, Eric and Nick get spooky just in time for Halloween and discuss The Wicker Man with Nicolas Cage, Netflix’s Hemlock Grove, and are relentlessly interrupted by everything that the world could possibly throw at them. Check it out in the link below!

CinemAbysmal: The Podcast Episode 2 – The Wicker Man and Hemlock Grove