Horror

The Void

voidThe Void (2016) – Horror 

Directed by: Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie

Starring: Aaron Poole and Kenneth Welsh

How I Watched: Amazon Instant Video

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

Everyone has their ideal movie in their head. The one they always wished they could make or at least see. Characters that speak on themes that are important to you. The addition of plot twists and full frontal male nudity. Everyone has something they want their favorite movie to be. I want to see an 80;s style cosmic horror film that feels equal part Lovecraft and Cronenberg. I want practical effects and an ending that feels completely batshittingly disconnected from the first act. And folks, I have seemingly found this film. Or so I thought.

The Void is a film that was produced in 2016 and feels very much like a full-length film cousin of Stranger Things. It doesn’t initially try anything too daring, starting with a small town sheriff’s deputy finding a man who has run away from some seemingly bad men. He brings this man to the nearest hospital, which unfortunately is under reconstruction after a recent fire and thus, suffers from a limited staff. And the deputy’s ex-wife works there also, which is the kind of coincidence that happens in films all the fucking time to give emotional depth, but tends to just break down fourth walls.

But forgiving that, shit goes full fucking insanity pretty fast when a whole host of white cloaked figures descend and surround the building, killing anyone who wishes to enter or exit. Their perfectly starched and ironed cloaks look very KKK outside of the black triangle over the face, presumably so they can see. Also, one of the nurses has killed one of the patients and therefore has also decided to cut her own face from her skull. So that’s cool. She is killed, but pretty immediately comes back as a giant bloody tentacle monster which has to be re-killed. It is pretty fucking sweet to watch. And this all happens in the first act. Are you pumped, cause I am fucking pumped.

Then the second act hits and shit slows way the fuck down. It becomes the same dynamic that plays out in every single location horror film. Mistrust, survival runs, and hashing out personal issues that really don’t matter but again, add depth. I really don’t want to ruin the rest of the film for you, because the third act is a masterclass on mind-blowing and face shredding.

So this is the film I wanted to see. It kinda feels like one of those wishes where you wish for something, but some asscracked genie or monkey paw kills everyone on Earth because you asked to be the richest man alive. Turns out, I like a lot of things in films besides which other artists it stole from. Like good acting. The acting in this film was fairly disgusting in many scenes. Also, casting. This is some backwoods community and half the characters look like patrons of some french named coffee bar in Williamsburg. I know actors tend to look like actors, but come on. Does the sheriff’s deputy really need an undercut and skinny jeans? Dialogue was also just kinda boring. We are talking about entering a new plane of existence and reanimating the dead and monsters and shit, and I am just fucking yawning. You have to try so hard to make dialogue with that subject matter boring.

Overall, the film’s strengths can really carry the film. And I am definitely buying it on Blu-Ray or a future as-yet-named format and recommending everyone with the same tastes as me go out and see it. All the weaknesses do is frustrate you with how great it could have been. I love the blood and gore and tentacle porn, but when the characters’ emotions don’t match the tension of the scene, it pulls you out of all that horrible shit. I like that horrible shit. I want to sleep in it. Don’t do that.

The Boy

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The Boy (2016) – Horror 

Directed by: William Brent Bell

Starring: Lauren Cohan and Rupert Evans

How I Watched: Streamed on Showtime

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

There are some ideas that are so fucking stupid, they are actually good. Horror tends to be the genre that best collects these gems that make you think, ‘who the fuck thought this would be good?’ The Boy, which came out in 2016, is one of these films. Quite possibly, the most overused trope of the 2000’s in horror was that of the creepy kid. We saw it in The Ring and The Grudge. The 2010’s saw the return of the creepy doll with Annabelle and the remake of Poltergeist. Yes, the creepy kid and creepy doll are tropes that played out in the 70’s and 80’s as well. We live in a recursive culture, you see. Time is a flat circle or some shit. Anyway, the point I am getting to is that The Boy mixes these tropes to seemingly idiotic effect, until the story actually starts evolving.

The film starts with a nanny played by Lauren Cohan who was in The Walking Dead and still might be. I don’t watch that shit. The nanny, Greta, gets some Craigslist job in England where shit is inherently creepy to watch some child. But when she gets there, the spooky unhinged parents reveal that she will in fact be watching a doll that looks like a boy, but is totally inanimate. The design of the wooden figure is actually quite excellent in that it has a blank expression that simultaneously looks both angelic and menacing. Not like Dead Silence (2007) where it fucking grins maniacally throughout, and then everyone is surprised when it turns out evil.

I mean, of course, the situation in The Boy is fucked up, but what the film tries to hint is that maybe it isn’t, and that’s where the film gains strength. Greta indulges the “parents,” complying with what seems to be their grief, as the doll is meant to represent the boy the couple lost in a fire. They eventually leave on an extended holiday (British for vacation), and she is left alone with the doll. She just throws it on a chair and makes herself a peanut butter & jelly sammich, relaxing. This is where shit is kinda weird for me. Being somewhat neurotic, I’d either assume this was some test and I was on CCTV, or that maybe there is some fucked up reason the parents catered so heavily to the doll, and I would just keep acting like it was a real boy. I would probably fail some social experiment about compliance, but fuck it, I am like 20% sure ghosts don’t exist, but like, 20% afraid of everything. Therefore, what can it hurt? Anyway, the negligence gets to be too much for the doll, and it starts moving and shit when she isn’t in the room.

The strength of the film comes from Greta’s reaction to the movement and supposed life of the doll. Not with fear, but amazement. Too often in horror films, we see characters, especially women, respond with terror when confronted by anything outside of the norm. It is refreshing to see someone experimenting with that which is strange. I mean, the film does come with its own brand of “horror,” in that it turns out the movements are made by the actual adult son that is living in the walls. He then tries to kill people because it is a stupid third act, but for a bit of time, the film is curious and energetic, playing against the shit that usually comes from the “haunted house” story.

In many ways, the film is unremarkable, however it is fun to follow, and the inherent creepiness of seeing people treat a doll like a real human gives legs to the uncanny nature of the story. It sounds stupid to recommend a film like this, but if you are in the mood for a horror film that will tingle your interests, but won’t take up too much brain matter, check it out.

The Eyes of My Mother

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The Eyes of My Mother (2016) – Horror 

Directed by: Nicolas Pesce

Starring: Kika Magalhaes and Olivia Bond

How I Watched: Netflix

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

Opening on a sultry black and white shot of some goddamn trees, that is quite possibly the most beautiful shot of trees I have seen outside of a BBC Planet Earth special, The Eyes of My Mother is almost jarring in its simplicity. I had heard a many creepy story of this film, most notably by my mother, who accidentally turned it on one night and sat through the whole thing. “It’s really dark,” she said. She wasn’t fucking kidding. It is a film about solitude and grief’s effect on the human psyche, blatantly starting off with a mother describing to her child the religious ecstasy of Francis of Assisi, canonized in 1228 after receiving the stigmata after years of loneliness. This connection between solitude and violence is a central theme, I think.

The mother and her daughter are seen cutting out the eye of a cow in a scene that seems to pay homage to the 1929 Surrealist film by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou, which uses a cow’s eye as stand-in for a woman’s eye, which is stand-in for the way the clouds seem to cut through the moon. But you’ve seen that film. You know what I’m saying.

The mother is a surgeon, or was in Portugal, and is seemingly teaching her young daughter the family craft. Soon, a stranger arrives at the home played amazingly to creeptastic effect by Will Brill, who played that methy prisoner in The OA if you watched that. He smiles and his eyes bulge like a Peter Lorre impressionist. He looks like a fucking evangelist with his white shirt and black slacks, but presents an almost immediately ominous tone. He is an animal and they his prey. They regard him with the same poise and caution one would present a rabid wolf. But by the time the Father arrives, the mother is no more. The discovery of her demise is pitch perfectly played with the camera following the Father and the audience hoping to press the brakes for fear of the barbaric sounds coming from the bathroom. The animal is subdued and like any animal, chained in the barn. Perhaps the Father has more torturous plans for the stranger. Maybe he just doesn’t have the ability to kill another human being. But his daughter steps in, ten years old at the most, and after seeing her Father’s agitation toward his screams for help, the girl decides to cut out the eyes and vocal cords of the creature, but not before he relays to her the secret behind why he kills. Because it feels so good.

The film then follows as the girl, Francisca, is now an adult woman. She is played by Kika Magalhaes in a mixture of intense angst and far-off stares. She is beautiful and slender and sports the jet black hairstyle of Chantal Goya in Masculin Feminin. Her father has died and she still yearns for her mother, while tenderly caring for the blind and mute stranger locked in her barn. The film turns to story of a young monster while she preys on locals in a pursuit to regain the family she has lost. The final impact of her life comes in a gunshot heard from a drone filming above the familial home.

I like this film and would recommend it to anyone, but for reasons outside of it being a great film. It is honestly one of the more stunning hour and twenty minutes you will find within the horror genre. The subject matter is dark and disturbing on every count as you ride along on very stark journey into the mind of a killer. Scenes are complex with many layers and alternative viewpoints to be gleaned. But the story in and of itself doesn’t have much to say. I found myself constantly amazed by what I was watching, yet questioning, what the fuck is the point? Should I just be shocked or is this film saying something outside of the context of the film?

It feels like it relies so much on the momentum of the callous way that Francisca destroys her fellow humans in the search of a connection, that it doesn’t collect anything worth saying about the human condition. The film never stands up for the protagonist or makes excuse for why she acts the ways she does, and in another film, this could be seen as a strong point, but in this one, it feels like a cop out. The entire third act feels rushed and devoid of the very relationship building it needs in order for the audience to feel the full weight of the climax. It just ends.

Ultimately, go see it. Turn it on Netflix and revel in its beauty. Think about it for days but don’t be surprised if you find nothing of value on the other side of all that thinking.

Sloppy Saturdays: Volume 3 – ‘Arachnophobia’

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What is ‘Sloppy Saturdays’?

I realized that I own over 300 movies, many of which I have not watched a second time. Whether on Blu-Ray, DVD, or the legendary LaserDisc, I have a lot of films I need to watch again. So, I’ve decided I should probably go through these and justify why I own them, and perhaps, why you should too. I put them all into a database and will randomly mix them up once a week. Come back every Saturday for a new review. 

-Nick, Editor of CinemAbysmal

 

Sloppy Saturdays – Volume Three

Arachnophobia (1990) – Comedy |Thriller

Directed by: Frank Marshall

Starring: Jeff Daniels and John Goodman

Format I Own: LaserDisc

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Synopsis

Arachnophobia begins like a lot of other movies in the ’90’s: Big city doctor (Jeff Daniels) moves to a small town with the intention of taking over the town’s only medical practice. Little does he know, a spider-bitten corpse from Venezuela was just dropped off and the carcass brought a huge and aggressive, 8-legged freak with him. Somehow, this baseball mitt-sized tarantula mates with a spider in this tiny farm town, and soon all Gremlinsesque hell breaks loose.

What I Love

I think love might be too strong of a word to describe how I feel about this movie, but I did love it as a kid and it’s definitely got some nostalgic value to it. By no means, though, is it a great movie. The effects are dated, they tried really hard to make it funny, which comes off as unnatural, and it’s hard to have Jeff Daniels carry your movie. Every scene with John Goodman is pretty damn good, but really, there’s not quite enough. The musical score is goofy as all hell, as well. But really, if you saw this as a kid, you’ll probably enjoy it merely for nostalgic reasons like I did.

My Favorite Scene

For almost the entire movie, Marshall and crew dog hard on this couple that really likes food. This guy is the town mortician and is constantly eating Ruffles around the corpses, and at a dinner party, he and his wife take full paper plates of food home. Well, when it’s time for the outbreak of spiders upon the town, one climbs into a disgustingly buttery bowl of popcorn that the portly couple is eating out of while watching Wheel of Fortune. It’s standard ‘it’s funny ’cause he’s fat’ fodder, but I still enjoyed it, especially when the murdering spider crawls out of the mortician’s nose after killing him.

 

What You Might Not Like

I think based on the title, it’s pretty obvious why a lot of people would not be able to handle this film. From the beginning, the spiders are big, they’re aggressive, and their actions play on everyone’s basic fears of spiders that bite. While watching, I admittedly lifted my feet off the floor a few times in momentary fear of some scuttling beings. They hiss, they jump and fly through the air, they have dripping, black fangs and they really couldn’t be more frightening.

How You Can Watch

  • Rent for $2.99 on Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu

 

Final Score: 2.5/4

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Similar Films: Gremlins, The Mist, Eight Legged Freaks

Get Out

Film Title: Get Out

Get Out (2017) – Horror | Comedy | Thriller

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams

How I Watched: Theatres

Review by Nick Spanjer

Here’s the thing about the first big horror movie of 2017: it is not that scary. Now before you turn away from this review, know that I loved the film. While each trailer wraps it in a pretty horrific little bow, the truth is, the film is more of a psychological clusterbomb, meant to fuck with the heads of the droves of white audiences filing in to see it. I know you’re thinking, “Oh man, Jordan Peele just made a movie to rip on Trump voters?,” but, no.

The smartest part of Get Out, was not that it rips on Trump, Trump voters, or even white people in general. What the movie actually does is firebomb the white, liberal elite; those same ones that were sure Hillary Clinton had the election in the bag. At one point, a terrific Bradley Whitford, who plays main character Chris’ girlfriend’s father, tells Chris that if he could have, he would have voted for Obama a third time. This sort of forced validation with the “black” community that Chris represents shows how out of touch these people really are.

I’m not going to go too much further into the plot, but what I can tell you, is that this movie definitely did its job in making me horribly uncomfortable. Being a white liberal, I could just feel the awkwardness of Bradley Whitford and his wife (played by an awesomely creepy Catherine Keener) almost giving each other pats on the back of how accepting they are of their white daughter’s new black boyfriend. The musical score does its job to inflict unease (with the exception of one over-the-top section at the end of the film), but the most discomfort is caused by the characters’ interactions. While there are plenty of classically tense “horror” moments in this, these moments are the most uncomfortable. And trust me, there are plenty of them.

I think my favorite performance in the film came from Caleb Landry Jones, the brother of Chris’ girlfriend. From the get-go, you can tell the character is off his rocker and it is one of the more well-acted pieces in the film. There is a dinner scene in which I was sinking further and further into my chair as the tension built. There are also moments which made me think of films like Rosemary’s Baby and Under the Skin, where the movie almost descends into a dreamlike abyss, causing you to feel the worst case of inescapability. At one point, Chris is hypnotized and his state of claustrophobia was nearly infectious upon me.

Get Out is not a horror movie in the classic sense. Yes, there are jump scares and there is some pretty gruesome violence. In all reality though, this is Jordan Peele’s living nightmare on film. He took what he saw was happening in our country and all over the world, and made it into a film. Our world has become a pretty horrific place for a lot of us, and there are funny moments, as well as really uncomfortable ones. We do not treat each other right, and we have not been treating each other right for a long time. This is the movie that shows us just how awful it has gotten – and that is the most horrific part of Get Out.

Final Score: 3.5/4

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Similar Films: Rosemary’s Baby, Green Room, The Stepford Wives 

Antibirth

antibirth

Antibirth (2016) – Horror

Directed by: Danny Perez

Starring: Natasha Lyonne and Chloe Sevigny

How I Watched: Netflix

Review by Eric Scot Lemons

So there is this movie on Netflix called Antibirth and it is basically about Natasha Lyonne getting super pregnant despite not having sex after her recent miscarriage during a drunken bender in some white trash, creeptown tavern. I was interested in seeing this movie when it was On Demand through my local cable provider around Halloween time, but then I saw 31 by Rob Zombie instead. So once it came on Netflix, I was all, “Hey that’s the lady from Orange is the New Black and Slums of Beverly Hills and But I’m a Cheerleader, plus it has Chloe Sevigny, and they both play burnout, drug addict lowlifes and I really like films like that. So I watched it.

But this movie is fucking weird. And generally, I say that in the most lovingly complimentary way possible, but this movie, not so much. The best way to describe this film in a completely derivative fashion is that it is like Cabin Fever meets Rosemary’s Baby if directed by Rob Zombie in an attempt to woo Harmony Korine. The characters are white trash, but in that punk rock way that only independent filmmakers tend to see them; larger than life, spewing profanities like phlegm at the slightest provocation while taking bong rips and shitting with the door open. Natasha Lyonne is really wonderful in this film, but her character is so surreal in a ‘Gathering of the Juggalo’ masturbatory fantasy, that the fate that befalls her seems apropos at best.

So the meat and potatoes of the plot is just that she gets infected with some mutated mutant sperm injected by the always great, Mark Weber, who is a pimp and drug dealer, and must carry this strange thing to term. It is pretty straight up Cronenberg body horror, but probably thinks it is feminist because is has to do with motherhood being forced or some shit. Towards the end, with a belly as big as a big belly, Lyonne hobbles around with a cane imposing herself in the search of answers. She looks exactly like Danny Devito in Batman Returns. It is fucking hilarious. But the answers come in the form of some X-Files bullshit about who cares.

The culmination of the film results in her giving birth to some neon glowing goomba from Super Mario Brothers, THE MOVIE! And while it is comical, the third act feels like the best parts of William Friedkin’s Bug. We spend so much time in movies hearing the protagonist say, “I know this sounds crazy, but…” and we are like, yeah it sounds crazy but I believe you cause I saw all this happen. But there is a large part of AntiBirth that feels like this is just the final broken piece of brain matter shuttering off in a broken person’s schizoid delusions. You can imagine the reality of a woman, no bun in dat oven, screaming about secret government programs and mutant embryos and shit, and it is just kind of sad.

I noticed, after seeing this film, I would describe it to others much like I described it to you, using other film’s references to make a point. And I believe that is the fatal flaw with this film. It doesn’t feel, despite its erratic editing and music that sounds like STP, like it has its own voice. It is a pastiche of punk cinema and Marilyn Manson music videos and Liam Lynch pre-internet creativity. It is boring to look at cause we have already seen it. It doesn’t shock. It is just weird.

31 Days of Horror – ‘Creep’

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Creep

Directed by: Patrick Brice

Starring: Patrick Brice and Mark Duplass

Review by CinemAbysmal

First of all, this was not supposed to be the psychological horror movie that it turned out to be. Apparently, Duplass and Brice showed the early cut to their friends and they suggested they turned the mostly improvised story into a horror movie. There’s word out there that it even has three alternate endings (the one they left in was pretty damn good).

Most people know Mark Duplass as Pete from The League on FX. And while I find him pretty damn hilarious in that show, I think I respect him more for his efforts in producing, writing and directing ‘Mumblecore’ films and TV shows such as The Puffy Chair and HBO’s Togetherness. I’m not exactly the hugest fan of this breed of film, but I appreciate it because it reminds me quite a bit of 1970’s Woody Allen. So when I saw he was in a pseudo-found footage film, I was pretty excited to check it out.

Mark Duplass is definitely the best part of this movie. It’s perfectly titled, as he is truly creepy as Josef, a dude hanging out in a cabin in the woods who hired a videographer for one day on Craigslist. The protagonist, Aaron (Patrick Brice, who actually directed the film as well), is pretty great as the videographer that is suffering through Josef’s pretty damn annoying antics, until you see something else is really wrong with Josef. I’ll stop there, but it’s a pretty excellent portrayal of crazy by Duplass.

Creep isn’t perfect. In fact, at times, it feels a bit insufferable with Mark Duplass doing everything he can to be the most insane, obsessive person on earth. What it is though, is a nice departure from the found-footage films we’ve been force fed over the last couple decades. There’s very natural discussions, which leads to some pretty convincing fear and scares coming from the actors. Don’t expect it to be too funny with Duplass, but just sit back and enjoy what’s about to hit you.