The Wisher

*Originally written in 2003

Spliced (Movie Review) | Bloody Good Horror

Another cheap horror movie which borrows heavily from both big and cult hits of the genre, but one which manages to be quite enjoyable even if we have seen it all before. There are some good performances, some not so good, a few typical scares and jokes (some which hit, some which miss), a fair amount of blood, a simple but well executed story, and quite a creepy bad guy. Probably not worth searching for, but worth watching if it is on TV especially if you are a horror fan.

Mary is a teenage girl with a love for horror movies, always searching for the next scare. When she hears about a new film called The Wisher which has been getting good reviews from terrified audiences, she and her friends go to see it, against her father’s wishes. Mary has a habit of sleepwalking which her father believes is caused by all the rubbish she watches. A short time into the movie, Mary vomits and leaves knowing the film is too much for her. After an argument with her father she wishes he would just go away. Soon her father is dead, and Mary believes she keeps seeing the Wisher creature from the movie. She becomes paranoid and after a few more gory events related to what she has innocently wished for, she believes that The Wisher, or someone dressed up as him is stalking her, obsessively carrying out her wishes in the worst way possible. She finds out that the film makers imbued the film with subliminal messages, and thinks that school hunk Brad, who likes her, has been hypnotised by the film. She tries to find a way to reverse the process, planning to watch the film to see how it ended. The Wisher is on to her plan though…

Although everything is pretty predictable there is still enough fun to warrant watching this. There is some cheesy dialogue and effects, and you would think that once you believed that your wishes were coming true you would immediately wish for The Wisher to leave. Liane Balaban is very good as Mary, at times carrying the film on her own, and Ron Silver is good though seems uninterested in a smaller role. The rest of the cast are OK, but the film is quick and never tries to over-achieve. The Wisher itself does look scarier than your typical cheap horror movie bad guy, and the director’s best moments are when the Wisher is stalking in the shadows or on reflections. There is not much heavy violence and nothing is over-the-top. Give it a go if it’s on, but do not expect a masterpiece, just a quick piece of entertainment.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Wisher!

The Slumber Party Massacre

The Collinsport Historical Society: Monster Serial: THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, 1982

When you call your movie ‘The Slumber Party Massacre’, there are certain things an audience might expect; namely, a slumber party, possibly some sort of massacre, and perhaps that massacre will happen at a slumber party. The periphery information – what the theme of the Slumber Party is, who is in attendance, who is doing the massacring, and why these people are being massacred – well that’s left to the excited viewer to uncover, but presumably each of these questions would also be answered. The Slumber Party Massacre answers every one of these questions – there is a slumber party (attended by a bunch of peppy high school seniors), there is a massacre (instigated by a good old fashioned escaped crim who takes a liking to this particular group of friends), the massacre does happen at the slumber party (and a little precursor or two beforehand), the theme of the slumber party is simply to drink and get stoned and bitch about people – and some of these people even show up to be massacred too. Basically, there’s a whole lot of massacring at this slumber party.

What else should be in a film with this name? If you answered boobs, then you’re correct! Boobs should be present, and boobs are present. Quite often in fact. If you’re wondering why I’m asking all these bizarre, vaguely humours questions – it’s not merely because I’m a lazy, unfunny writer, but it’s because they’re actually relevant to the context of the movie. The film was originally written as a parody or satire of the booming slasher genre – while it was never going to be as meta as Scream, it was still designed to poke fun at the exploitative nature of the genre – the male gaze and full frontal antics, the ludicrous violence, the empty-headed characters, nonsensical plots, and the killers and their ridiculous agenda/weapons/masks/unkillability. At some point between script and filming the unthinkable happened and the film instead switched into being the exact sort of film it was meant to be satirizing. What this means is that we have a film filled with the blood, guts, bad guys, killings, and boobs of your usual sleaze’n’slash-fest, but a script with strange in-jokes, characters who seem more savvy than they should be, and some proto-feminist turns. In short, it’s fucking bizarre.

While you’re not going to highlight any of the performances as notable, everyone here is passable and entertaining, from the cannon fodder to the cannon. As bad as you’re expecting a film with this title to be, you’ll enjoy it in spite of yourself. Horror fans will enjoy the niche it owns along with the kills, the various trappings and tropes, and any non-horror fans will get a kick out of how silly it all is. On the surface it’s a typical slasher following a bunch of girls being stalked by a crazed killer and his powerdrill (shlong), and as they get picked off one by one the survivors begin to fight back in a last gasp attempt at survival. It’s just over an hour long, and as such makes for a curious and simple good time – the perfect horror party movie before moving on to something more substantial.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Slumber Party Massacre!

Blood Fest

Blood Fest (2018) – Review | Mana Pop

I seem to start a lot of posts these days with the phrase ‘if you’re a regular to this blog’, which suggests I’m covering a lot of the same topics on a loop, but if you’re a regular to this blog then you’ll know I love fiction and movies set around theme parks, fun parks, carnivals and the like. In recent years we’ve had a few films in this vein, expanding out to also cover the Escape Room craze, and in 2018 alone we confusingly had Hell Fest and Blood Fest – two films set inside the curious theme parky world of Horror-Cons.

Blood Fest begins promisingly, with a mother and son snuggled up watching horror movies on the sofa. The mum goes into the kitchen to grab more popcorn, and when she doesn’t come back the son goes to the kitchen only to find a masked killer standing over his mum’s bloodied body. Flashforward to present day and the boy is now a teenager obsessed with Horror movies, while his dad is a psychologist who argues against Horror and other violent forms of media as they lead to the sort of disorders or crimes which led to his wife’s death. It’s a decent setup, and even though all I expect or want from a movie like this is some fun chase and kill shenanigans using the location in an interesting way, this had the potential to discuss some deeper topics.

It’s odd then that the setup doesn’t really go anywhere. There’s no sense of grief within the family, there’s little real discussion on the ills, perceived or otherwise, of Horror movies on impressionable people – which is especially strange because the entire plot hinges on that exact device – and it means that I was left a little disappointed by the final product. Had a more generic setup been in place I would have taken this as a simple fun slasher, but as it suggests its going to have more depth – when it doesn’t deliver on that promise I ask what the point of it all was.

We should bear in mind though that the movie is a comedy – it’s a comedy set in the world of Horror and Horror fandom, with plenty of nods and in jokes both broad enough for casual fans to get, and more specific such as a moment recalling The Exorcist 3’s famous jump scare. There’s quite a lot of gore – of the over the top, spurting Asian variety – but there isn’t an ounce of tension or true horror here. It’s 100% in the Comedy genre, like a poor man’s Shaun Of The Dead. The teenager hero and his two friends are planning to attend Blood Fest – a celebration of all things Horror, with rides, celeb meet and greets, booze, music, and everything else you would expect from an overblown Con. The twist is that once the guests arrive, all doors are locked, all gates are electrified, and all bets are off as the Con’s host – an overly camp Owen Edgerton – wants to film the greatest Horror movie of all time by killing all of the guests throughout the different areas of the park. The park is split into different areas matching a particular Horror theme or trope – zombies, vampires, killer clowns – and each area is filled with maniacal killers or monsters. Again, there’s a cool idea in here – a Horror based Battle Royale – but we focus on our small group of survivors, and the park’s areas are only given cursory glances. I’d have enjoyed more of a thorough Running Man style chase through these areas with a sense of progress and threat and a chance to feel the different atmosphere of each. A larger group of survivors, seeing them get whittled down as they make their way towards the Exit or the centre, would have been cool.

Our heroes are not the most exciting bunch – lead horror geek, his feisty love interest, his geeky friend, the hot blonde, and ostensibly the hot blonde’s jerk boyfriend and a cowardly horror actor. They never feel like they are in any real danger, and even when they begin to get picked off we’re not given any reason to care – and the survivors don’t react much. A sharper script would have improved matters, but there’s a much better film in here as I’ve alluded to; that idea of survival in a Horror version of Disneyland, complete with cameos from famous faces from within the genre, and by all means spice it up with social commentary or meta influence. As it stands, Blood Fest is a let down on most fronts – the laughs are flat, the commentary may as well not be there, the gore is silly, the plot is uninteresting, and the location is underused and not fleshed out. Still, it’s a brief enough watch and if you’re into films set in the same sort of universe and location as this, you’ll likely get some basic enjoyment out of it.

Let us know what you thought of Blood Fest in the comments!

#Alive

Korean Thriller '#Alive' Coming To Netflix On September 8

It’s true that there is a fatigue for zombie movies at the moment. In truth, that fatigue set in over a decade ago, but that hasn’t stopped movie-makers still attempting to find a new spin on the formula or drop their own mangey undead copycat. #Alive lies somewhere in the No Man’s Land between these two camps, bringing in drones and vlogging and a different type of location, yet not really doing anything radically different from a narrative or character perspective. It’s essentially the same survivalist shtick of Night Of The Living Dead, set in a South Korean apartment block with a (mostly) single protagonist whose incompetence is his most notable trait. Luckily, the film is not overlong and is told with a certain amount of energy which compliments the youthful nature of its hero.

#Alive doesn’t take long to get to the point. A typical twenty something social media gamer type is just setting up for another day of streaming videogames with his friends and subscribers when one of his gang notices something strange on the news. As they question the validity of what they’re seeing, our protagonist hears the sudden sounds of carnage coming from outside; screams, car crashes, stampeding crowds. He looks out of his balcony to see people running and attacking each other from a few storeys below, and similar sounds are coming from right outside his door. It’s zombies, of the 28 Days Later variety. So begins the usual barricading of doors and windows, setting out food and water, and preparing weapons for an eventual attack and inevitable step outside. All the while he keeps checking his mobile, hoping for a signal, hoping for news from his family who had already left for the day when the attack began.

The Night Eats The World follows a very similar premise to this, but the two films are very different in tone and approach. #Alive is more action heavy and only half-heartedly deals with the psychological aspects of being trapped, terrified, and alone – not knowing if you’re the only person left alive in your city. The Night Eats The World is much more successful in this regard, and feels like the fresher movie even if it is the slower, more drama focused. Yoo Ah-in is perfectly serviceable as our lone survivor, suitably clumsy and naïve, yet capable of bravery when desperation calls for it. The story doesn’t truly explore his character beyond the fleeting looks at family photos or checking for texts, and I feel like the better film would have been him keeping in contact with each of the streamer friends from the start of the movie, follows their daily updates from his perspective until the power eventually goes out. The apartment location isn’t used to its full potential, at least not until the second half of the movie, and when certain reveals are made, you expect them and any twists which come along. It’s not a game-changer, but in terms of a Netflix Korean zombie movie in a contemporary setting, it manages to remain watchable without ever being scary or gruesome or particularly thought-provoking. It’s a one-off popcorn movie for people not familiar with the genre or who have a particular affinity of South Korean actors.

Let us know in the comments what you though of #Alive!

 

Excision

Image result for excision movie

Controversy is a funny thing. Subjects deemed controversial hundreds of years, or even mere decades ago, are now spoken of fondly in polite conversation while the number of taboo topics grows ever smaller. When you through artistic license into the mix, the boundaries become further blurred. While these shifts in opinion are largely governed by the wider shifts of the religious, political, moral, and cultural landscapes, film, music, and art have each made a significant impact. In this enlightened (or corrupt, depending on which side of the argument you may be on) 21st Century, everything is fair game in Cinema as long as you’re not breaking any laws. And as long as the censors are cool with it. It’s unusual then that a film such as Excision garnered so much controversy upon release given that it was, for my money, a fairly tame and humourous trip down a filthy suburban lane.

Excision is as camp as a Drama teacher named Joan. You could be mistaken for thinking it was a lost John Waters movie from the 90s, such is the comedic and dramatic tone. Indeed, Waters himself appears as a bewildered church minister trying to lead one of his flock back to the path of righteousness. That particular lost lamb is an outcast teenager, a rebellious young woman by the name of Pauline who has nightly sexual fantasies about mutilation and medical operations. These scenes attempt to show the degree of her disturbed mind, but for the majority of the film I found her to be a relatively normal teen archetype. Plagued by cold sores for most of her life after her similarly afflicted father saved her from drowning as a child, she is depicted as a moderately gruesome physical presence – at least when viewed alongside her innocent young sister, the cool kids in school, and the pretty jump-roping neighbour across the street. Given that Pauline is played by professional model AnnaLynne McCord, it’s an effective make-up job. McCord gives a snarling and emotive performance as the troubled teen whose only goal in life is to become a doctor (primarily so that she can cut shit up) and to protect her sister, whose cystic fibrosis could snatch her life at any moment. Surrounding McCord we have a range of familiar faces – Traci Lords is well suited as the middle class soccer mom trying to live the American Dream and constantly sniping at her bored and whipped husband (a slumped Roger Bart). Elsewhere, Malcolm McDowell, Ray Wise, and Marlee Matlin pop up.

The funny thing about the controversy, mainly in the form of reviews, is that a lot of these came from seasoned horror fans and websites claiming the film is both unforgettable and difficult to stomach. In truth, the scattered scenes of gore are shot beautifully – as the dream sequences that they are – and everything is most definitely played for tongue in cheek shocks, such as Pauline choosing to lose her virginity to a local jock and asking him to go down on her knowing she is having her period. The only real shock, which felt inevitable throughout the entire film, is the ending. Indeed it’s an ending I wasn’t offended by in a graphical sense – there’s nothing even a generic horror fan hasn’t seen before – but more because of the tragedy of it, although I don’t believe there was a confirmation that one of the characters involved is actually dead even if it is implied.

My main issue with the film came from my uncertainty over how I was meant to feel in certain moments – was I meant to side with Pauline and feel her pain, or see her as a mentally disturbed figure? Beyond the ending, I didn’t feel any true insanity within her. Was I supposed to be shock by the gore and the actions of certain characters, when the tone is so blatantly humorous? Director/writer Richard Bates Jr manages to pull together a stellar indie cast who all revel in the script, and it is clear he has a fondness for the seedier underbelly of suburbia and the modern world – especially when we are aware of his more recent works. Anyone who may have been put off by some of the negative or more finger-wagging reviews should consider those as somewhat over the top – if you’re a John Waters or a Horror fan then you’ll probably get a kick out of Excision, but it’s difficult to see an audience beyond those hallowed, unfazed groups.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Excision!

Megan Is Missing

Megan Is Missing's Viral TikTok Challenge & Controversy Explained

Every so often a film comes around, dragging such a weight of hype behind it that it begins to resemble a cannibalistic graverobber hauling a couple of corpses through a dank and hilly moor. Then there are those films which fly under the radar, only picking up a few glowing reviews sporadically and becoming something of an urban myth. Megan Is Missing falls into the second category – a film heard of, in whispers, but rarely seen. It has been years since Megan Is Missing was released, but every few years the film seems to strike a connection with the latest viral trend, and pops up again in social media feeds from concerned parents, duped tweens, and disgruntled critics. In recent weeks, the film has once again resurfaced thanks to kids on Tik Tok (whatever that is) watching it, being shocked by it, sharing it, and watching each other be shocked by it. But what does a seasoned horror fan make of it all? Spoiler Alert: it’s not very good.

Megan Is Missing is less of a movie and more of a masterclass in exploiting viral media and its audience. I was very impressed by director Michael Goi’s Twitter comments, advising viewers to switch off the film if they see the number ‘1’ appear on screen at any point, as they would have a few seconds to shut it off before being scarred for life – especially if what they had seen up to that point had disturbed them. Having already seen the movie and being aware of what he was talking about, this was actually quite a shrewd and amusing tactic to get more kids to watch it. Disingenuous or not, that seems to be the goal of the film – to get as many kids as possible to see it, and their parents, to warn them over the dangers of blind online interaction. 

The film follows a couple of girls as they meet a man online who claims to be the same age as they are and strikes up a friendship. If someone says their webcam is broken or doesn’t want to share their cam even as you share yours…. it’s probably not a good idea to continue communicating with them. Megan is popular with peers, but has a hidden history of abuse and clearly enjoys attention. Her best friend Amy doesn’t necessarily approve of Megan’s sudden change in behaviour and the online relationship she is beginning, but she is shown to be somewhat naive and jealous. Before long, Megan disappears and Amy takes it upon herself to launch an online and offline search for her friend, believing the guy Megan was talking to is responsible for her disappearance.

The film is made up of mobile phone footage, laptop cams, news reports and vlogs. Normally this would be a jarring experience – and here it is – but at least the simple narrative is kept coherent. The quality of acting is a low point throughout, though I didn’t have as much of an issue with this as most reviewers (although the guy playing Josh off screen is notably cringeworthy and a creep from first breath making me question the intelligence of anyone sucked in my his shite), and I was more accepting of the obvious low budget and attempts at authenticity. Certainly many of the recent batch of viewers have inexplicably been convinced of the film being a true story, or even going as far as somehow believing the final 15 minutes or so to be genuine crime footage retrieved by the FBI. Sometimes I despair at the youth of today, dagnamit.

The film doesn’t try to make us feel any sympathy for Megan – some for Amy – and maybe it’s the generational gap, but their behaviour, their dialogue, it’s all grating and off-putting, and the same is true for the surrounding cast. More than that, it seems to revel with salacious glee of it’s detailed descriptions (and thankfully less detailed depictions) of pre-teen sex. It’s a catalogue of annoyances before we get to any real pay-off for the horror fan – the infamous final scenes.

Those scenes have of course been hyped far beyond what they are deserving of, and have spun off already into a multitude of memes. I can only hope that those genuinely shocked by, or claiming to have been traumatised by these images subsequently move on to some good horror movies. What is there that is so shocking? We get a couple of photos of torture, which I can only assume are shocking due to the suddenness of their appearance, and there is a muffled yet exploitative rape scene towards the end which reviewers have highlighted as offering zero merit – admittedly it’s tough to portray such things with any true merit or purpose. We get the final split second reveal of what happened to Megan, followed by an excessively drawn out scene which was done with far greater potency decades earlier in The Vanishing. It’s far too little, and far too late, and having to sit through a lot of padding and a lot of inane conversations with general unlikeable people to get to this point, I’d have at least wanted a stampede of zombie dinosaur sharks to liven the thing up. 

Is it worth the hype? Of course not. Is it worth watching? Not really. There are better examples of similar plots and the technical ability on show is extremely limited. The filmmakers will defend this by pointing to the low budget and the fact that it is supposed to be a compilation of unprofessional bits – that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t make the end product any more worthy or worthwhile. Honestly, there are a tonne of more potent, more powerful, more emotionally devastating documentaries out there made with genuine craft and artistry which make this look like the half-assed mess that it is. Did I enjoy it? Unusually, I didn’t hate it. I have a low bar of expectation for this sort of thing anyway and it’s clearly not good, but if I’m honest it did set me loose on the internet for a few weeks binge on real life cases of abduction and missing persons. I’m not convinced that the reasoning behind the film was to highlight to impressionable kids the dangers of online interaction, if it smacks of ‘old man is scared of new technology/young people’, or if it was a cheap and cynical cash-in on real life tragedy at the boom of the found footage phenomenon. If there’s any positive from it all, it’s that you can easily watch it for free online – seriously, if you have to see it, don’t pay for it. 

To sum it all up – if you’re curious about the hype, by all means watch it. If you’re a seasoned horror fan you will absolutely be disappointed and confused by such hype. There are better things to do with your time, and better movies to watch. Let us know in the comments what you thought of Megan Is Missing!

The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project' Premiered at Sundance 20 Years Ago

*Originally written in 2003

The wild hysteria surrounding this movie proves that the majority of the cinema going audience can still be fooled into believing anything they see or hear, or think they do, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is an extremely convincing and effective horror flick. A certain number of people on these boards (written originally on IMDb so refers to IMDb message boards), and who have reviewed Blair Witch Project HATE the film for varying, understandable reasons. When I first watched this, I watched intently, knowing exactly what the directors were playing at, and I found great enjoyment in watching the reactions of those who thought it was real. Did it unsettle me? No. Did it make me jump like the horror movies that rely on loud noises to scare (the recent Ring remake) – no. But it was the first horror movie in a very long time to put a smile on my face, and make me shiver. If you can remember back to when you played hide and seek as a kid – the feeling you had when the person looking for you was 10 feet away and coming closer – that is what this film gives, in a much greater quantity.

It is slow moving, and if you do not enjoy the pace, then you may not enjoy the film, but it compensates this by being short and concise, juxtaposed against how the 3 campers must have felt as the hours dragged by – the point I take from this is that in life we only remember a series of memories, images pasted together to make little sense, and life seems much shorter than it actually was.

The camera use and grainy feel again may be fuel for hatred or love, but it works perfectly – they don’t know what is going on, and neither do we, but that doesn’t matter because in an uncertain and threatening situation, the natural human reaction is to run or fight. Drained, exhausted, paranoid, they run. Ever had a nightmare about running away from something, but not knowing exactly what it was, or why you are running?

The best part of the movie (apart from the hilarious ‘I kicked the map into the river’ scene) is the last few minutes when Michael and Heather enter the house following Josh’s screams. This is perfectly spine tingling, and the ending is excellent as our feelings and fear somehow build and climax  in perfect harmony with what is happening on screen. The actors are clearly convincing, again look at the audience hysteria for proof, and although they are not called upon to do much, they do it well. Few great horror films come along these days, this is one- embrace it, let yourself be sucked in to feel the full effect, don’t be critical, and realize how good it is.

Let us know what you think of The Blair Witch Project in the comments!

Cell

CELL: Phoning It In | Horror Movie | Horror Homeroom

I bought Stephen King’s Cell when it was first released, back in 2006. It was one of the books which felt infused by King’s new found cynicism after almost being wiped out by an idiot in a car – the very same accident which wormed its way thematically and psychologically into the final chapters of The Dark Tower. Already in 2006, cell phones were the norm and much of the criticism of the book was from people who claimed the story would have had more foreboding impact had it dropped five years earlier. When I first read the story – I got the subtext, but I was much more interested in the simple fact that it seemed to be King’s take on the zombie genre, having spoken out in support of movies like 28 Days Later. I quite enjoyed the book, even if it was on the silly side and didn’t always make the most coherent sense. I additionally felt that the book would make a very entertaining movie – the zombies were fresh enough that a cinematic take could be unique, and there were several setpieces which could have translated well from page to big screen. I waited for years watching rumour after rumour drop on a film version – I was keen to see what Eli Roth could do when he was attached, and then I was excited when I saw the triple threat of cast of John Cusack, Samuel L Jackson, and the great Isabelle Fuhrman. Is it any good?

Where to begin with this mess? I saw some reviews when the movie was released – they weren’t good. I hoped that these were simply the usual snotty elitists who can’t appreciate a King translation for the silly fun they are usually meant to be. I waited until the film was available on Prime to stream, and lordy, it’s not good. The plot is taken wholesale from the text – an artist is in New York away from his family when some sort of attack takes place. Basically, anyone who was using a cell phone (making a call) is turned into a blood crazed maniac and begins bashing anyone and everyone in sight. Clay, the Artist, escapes this initial wave, allies with a group of survivors, and plans to make his way back to his family in the hope they were not turned. Throw in a Big Bad who can control the zombies, some psychic dream nonsense, and you have a recipe for something already convoluted and junky. King’s gift in the story is making all of this, if not plausible, but relatable. We know it’s silly, but we trust King’s eye for character detail, emotion, and story-telling. The film has none of these things –  major plot points are dropped (or not) without explanation, and the story unravels in sequence without emotion, suspense, or meaning – it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens.

King’s gifts are not equated by director Tod Williams or screenwriter Adam Alleca. Williams, I have gone on record as saying that he made the best Paranormal Activity movie – so he knows what he is doing. I can only assume the production was the negative opposite of lightning in a bottle – the stars aligned to ensure that the worst possible outcome in every facet of the movie was achieved. Cusack seems like he’s having a stroke when trying to force out a tear, Samuel L Jackson seems bored, a few of the supporting characters are apparently genuinely damaged people that the filmmakers decided to put on camera for a bit of a laugh. Stacey Keach is fine for the three minutes he’s there, and Isabelle Fuhrman thinks she’s in a better movie than she actually is, or at the very least she’s trying to elevate things. On top of this, the soundtrack is filled with bizarre musical choices, the dialogue is low in the mix, and there are are three endings which you are free to choose as the one you want to be real.

Cell is a film I did want to love – I hold out hope that one day someone will make a good version of this, but I can’t see it. It’s a messy story, already dated, and that’s only going to get worse with time. There’s not a lot here for anyone to enjoy and everyone who you think would choose to watch the thing – horror fans, Stephen King fans – will be disappointed.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Cell!

Dead Of Night (1977)

Traumafessions :: Doomed Moviethon's Richard on Dead Of Night (1977)

This Halloween, and every Halloween, I try to watch a few portmanteau horror anthologies. Dead Of Night by Dan Curtis bares little resemblance to the Ealing film of the same name from three decades before, beyond the fact that they both offer little segments of horror and mystery for the viewer to enjoy. With only three stories and no wraparound it sets itself apart from many other anthologies, but thankfully the film still works thanks in a large part to the potency of its final piece.

It’s always interesting to me when an anthology film, ostensibly one in the horror genre, starts out with a segment which seems in no way related to horror. This is barely a Twilight Zone episode – one without an overly shocking twist or creep factor, but one which is still charming and watchable in its own right. Starring Ed Begley Jr as a car fanatic who picks up an old car to restore. The car has a bit of history, having been crashed 50 years earlier in a double death tragedy. Taking it out for its first spin, he finds himself somehow transported back to 1926 to learn the truth of the tragedy and maybe call upon some old relatives. It’s a strange, wistful tale which feels a little out of place but is still fun.

The second segment, is full blown Gothic Hammer goodness – creaking old mansions, butlers, sick busty women, and vampires. While this one does indeed have a macabre twist, you can see it a mile away if you’ve seen any horror movies of the last thirty years. It’s one of those segments which reminds me why I fell in love with Horror in the first place – even though it’s outdated and silly and not at all scary, it treats the material, and the vampire seriously – as this truly powerful and deadly threat rather than the lovelorn or easily slain anti-heroes we think of nowadays. It’s a piece which would be perfectly chilling and unforgettable for kids just dipping their toes into the genre. Plus you get Patrick McNee and Horst Bulchoz.

The final segment ‘Bobby’ is one of the most famous segments in all of anthology horror. Written by the great Richard Matheson, it’s the story of a grieving mother trying to raise her son from the dead using the dark arts. With little more than an exasperated sounding husband on the phone, it’s all about Joan Hackett and her attempts to resurrect her dead child. It’s a great performance, a chilling story, and one shot with literal thunderous aplomb – a stormy night becoming increasingly terrifying as Bobby teases his appearance, and proceeds to demand a game of hide and seek. It employs a lot of tricks to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, and it remains an effective and nasty tale.

Dead Of Night is a nifty little anthology to kick off your Halloween viewing, and a great introduction for younger viewers. Just snuggle up on the sofa and scar them for life, setting out with a gentle opener then racking up the tension until the final moments. Horror films aren’t made in this style any more – gore and swearing and sex free, but still scary enough that anyone can get a kick out of it and easily shared with younger family members who will get the thrill of the genre and hopefully want to explore further. Seasoned horror fans will enjoy the nostalgia factor even if the genre has progressed to deeper scares in the years since, but should still appreciate the dedication Curtis had for the craft.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Dead Of Night!

The Gift

The Gift (2015) : Movie Plot Ending Explained | This is Barry

As a seasoned Horror fan, there isn’t a lot out there which truly scares or unsettles me. We all have our thing, that type or subject which gets under our skin, be it jump scares or vampires, or spiders, or home invasion – whatever. I don’t really have a thing, I just enjoy all horror movies – even if they’re bad, there’s probably some funny kills or gore, and even if they don’t scare me, I can love them. The Gift feels more like a Thriller than an outright horror film, and there’s certainly nothing in the film or its synopsis which signalled to me that I would be scare or unsettled in any way. Nevertheless, The Gift made me very uncomfortable at certain points, which is not something I can say about even my favourite movies of the last few years.

Before we get into that – a quick plot description. Jason Bateman and his wife Rebecca Hall, have recently moved back to the suburbs due to Bateman getting a new Executive position, and allowing Hall to chill a little after some undisclosed mental issues. The seem to be back on the right path – new job, new house, a fresh start, and planning for a baby. While shopping, Bateman is approached by Joel Edgerton who claims to be an old school friend. At first not remembering, the penny eventually drops and they exchange phone numbers. Soon, Bateman and Hall begin to receive gifts and visits from Edgerton, who seems more than a little socially awkward, and these increase in frequency and oddity. Do they have a stalker? Is there something more sinister afoot? Is it all innocent?

Unfortunately, to talk about why the film excelled as instilling these levels of discomfort, we have to dip into spoiler territory – skip the rest of the review if you haven’t watched the movie. It’s quite clear early on that Bateman’s character is a bit of a dick. He seems dismissive and controlling of others, yet easily charming when he wants his own way. It’s this sly treatment of everyone around him which Bateman plays so perfectly, and which Edgerton directs so beautifully which really unnerved me. Not that this is particularly personal in any way, but to me Bateman’s character is someone I’ve seen all through life – from School with the privileged kids getting whatever they want and assuming they deserve everything and can trample over others to get it, to Office life where the smarmy insidious ass-lickers will crush those who just want to do their job and forget about it once 5pm hits. The movie does make it clear that this is not a good person, but it rarely makes it obvious if we’re meant to be rooting for him or not. As time goes on and the secrets are revealed, this contradiction becomes less jaded. If there’s one thing I would change in the movie, to even further blur lines between contradictions and blame, it’s in removing some of the more unnecessary moments concerning Gordo, such as learning about his discharge from the Army and his issues with the Law. I would have made Gordo’s character completely straight-laced and innocent, which would have meant re-writing the shock ending which makes us question whether or not a rape took place. Having Gordo potentially committing these acts makes it seem more like he had a plan all along, and therefore was just as capable of evil as Bateman, while I feel like him just being a random innocent weirdo would have been all the more potent.

The Gift is a well acted and directed thriller which has several twists and secrets which play on many tropes seen in past movies, from the likes of Fatal Attraction and Single White Female to Pacific Heights and Arlington Road. There’s always a seemingly happy couple, there’s always an intruder with an agenda who comes to disrupt this happy life, and there are always fatal consequences. The Gift is like those films but with added secrets to unravel, and with a less clearly focused single villain. It’s a film with the power to unsettle thanks to how closely it pinpoints cultural truths and norms, and one which may piss you off for all the right reasons.

Let us know what you thought of The Gift in the comments!