Friday, September 16, 2016

Alleliua [2014]

Alléliua [2014]

Outside of South Korea and Japan, not many countries can dish out a bat shit crazy woman like the French.  Be it Béadrice Dalle, Marina de Van, Cécille De France or Charlotte Gainsbourg, the French just know how to make sexy violent insane broads.  So successful in fact dudes had to name it, New French Extremity.

Well just north of the birthplace of New French Extremity is this quaint little country called Belgium, and it's home to one of modern horrors most unique auteurs, Fabrice Du Welz, acclaimed director/writer of 2004's Calvaire, 2008's Vinyan, and this review's, 2014's Alléliua, featuring the bat shit crazy woman of the year award winner, Lola Dueñas.

This film is some messed up.

Michel (Laurent Lucas) is an online con-artist and sexual predator.  Gloria (Lola Dueñas) is a morgue attendant with fear of abandonment and obsession/stalking issues.  When the Internet chances them together on some sort of, a blind date turns into a lustful one-night stand and a unique offer, Michel never thought would have been possible, leads to a murderous trek of deceit, embroiled passion, and horrific violence.

Loosely based on the murderous rampage of The Lonely Hearts Killers, and chaptered by individual marks (victims), Alléliua is an engrossing episode of unconditional love and unbridled obsession.
Each playing a part in the relationship's genesis and dissolution.

And it's that relationship that will decide whether you dislike or love this film, as it requires your complete and absolute entrancement.  For me, it was hypnotic.  Du Welz' use of camera angles, set design, soundscore, gritty 16mm, and acute script set the stage for the leads, and they admirably knock it out of the park.

Du Welz favourite, Laurent Lucas is amazing as the womanizing charmer and slimy swindler, but gladly hands over the reins to the magnificent performance of Dueñas.  She is marvelously bonkers.
With each chapter her unhinged jealousy increases until the inevitable finale proving love to be the most beautiful and destructive force on the planet.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Invitation [2015]


This review has probably been the most arduous task I've endeavoured to complete yet.  The Invitation is bad, really fuckin' bad.  So bad I'm almost speechless.  Let me break it down.

"This is our recruitment, but not recruiting you, video"

Will and Kira are on their way to a dinner party with old friends they haven't seen for years.  This is to exploit the recent successes of other dinner-party themed movies (see Cheap Thrills or Coherence).  The last time they all met, Will was married to Eden (party co-host), and during their 5 year old son Ty's birthday party the kid somehow dies, ruining their marriage and disbanding their clique of imbeciles.

"Hold your "center" like I'm going to hold my Oscar, Michiel" - Kusama.

Before arriving, Will hits a coyote and has to finish killing it with a tire iron.  This is supposed to represent the misery in society and how it must be dealt with.

After they arrive the old friends catch up, and we find out that not a single person, outside of Will, have any depth whatsoever.  Unless you'd call our other co-host (David), who, along with Eden, have been spending most of their time in Mexico (healing) in a communion (cult) - David was a "coked-out music producer", as profound.  Then, if you think the party couldn't get any lack of character, enter Pruitt!  Played by the one (dimensional) hit wonder himself, the sinister and dead-panned face, Mr. John Carroll Lynch!

"Make a happy face John, goooooood."

We learn Pruitt and a second stranger at the party are fellow friends from their Mexican sect, Will is a bit paranoid, David and Eden are waaaaay too happy and dislike shoes, and Choi is fuckin' late, A-gain!  Fast forward 10 mins and a couple bottles of booze later, and David and Eden bring out their cult's recruitment video (the first subplot dead-end), which just happens to show another fellow member die of cancer.  Yay, for dinner parties!

Talk to the hand, David, I'm suspicious.

David senses the disheartening of his guests and calls an audible, every dinner parties favourite tension breaker - a party game!  Akin to "I've Never", they begin to play "I Want", where everyone gets to disclose a secret desire, without judgment, criticism, or harm.  Eden wants to kiss Ben, Gina wants some coke, Tommy wants a blow job, poor little Ty didn't want to die, but then there wouldn't be a movie, wouldn't there Ty?  And Pruitt wants to tell everyone about his wife, the one he beat to death in a drunken rage.  Jackpot!

Dr. Joseph and Dr. Botox turned my grief into perma-puffy smile.

At this point any viewer who isn't retarded, braindead, or asleep can pinpoint the antagonists and realize something sinister is forthcoming.  It's at this time director Karyn Kusama (from AeonFlux and Jennifer's Body fame) tries to further establish a lightly touched upon but far fetched idea that Will is so grief stricken and paranoid that only he's noticed the bars on the windows, the doors locked from the inside, David and Eden not inviting them to the cult and not wearing shoes, the gigantic pill container full of barbiturates, everyone acting just a tad bit on the cult-ish side, and Pruitt is fuckin' John Carroll Lynch!  Our second subplot dead-end.

JCL doing a his JCL impression.

But let's forget all that because Choi showed up!

You'd think that this would be the time to build up Will's paranoia, but nope, Kusama thinks this is ample reason and a good enough time to reveal the mind-bending twist that David, Eden and Pruitt are going to kill them all.

"Oh my fuck" is right, Bubbles.

The long and drawn-out poisoned wine scene, catered by the neon sign of all string acoustics, coupled with the suspicious demeanour of the cultists, and Will's paranoid outburst is just comical.

The worst thing a bad movie can do is not reward your patience with a decent ending.  But the payoff was less gory, less violent and less satisfying than the attempted build up would've demanded, if there was some.   It was predictable, ignored the subtext of grief, passed-over an excellent opportunities (like really emphasizing Will's paranoia or reveal Pruitt to be a surprise hero), and nefariously dragged on too long.

Cult, murder, inescapable house...dat wine doh.

Take note of the moment where Will is trying to calm down Kira by telling her "they're just people, ok", as if this were a slasher and John Carroll Lynch wore a hockey mask and was unkillable.  It's priceless.

The red-light district, LA.

The film finishes with wannabe "A-Ha" moment, that is I'm assuming is supposed to justify everyone's actions but at that point I couldn't even care less.  All that was left was the biggest mystery of all...who cooked the lavish dinner spread, and when?


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Creep [2014]

CREEP [2014]

We've all met the friend-of-a-friend whose twisted and dark sense of humor goes beyond your group's level of acceptance, or the weird guy in class or work who you don't want to be friends with at the same time you don't want to be overly rude or mean to.  And we all have that friend that is all too naive despite how incredibly smart they are.  It's those human qualities that make CREEP all too effective at being all too real. 

 Josef is a successful 40-something who when isn't spending tubby time with imaginary babies, costume raping his wife, or taking pictures of you, is giving random hugs to random people and lying about being terminally ill.  

Aaron answers his Craigslist ad offering to pay $1000 to video diary "a day in the life of" to leave to his unborn son that he doesn't have coming before he doesn't kick the bucket..  As the day progresses Aaron becomes more and more aware that something is not awry.

When I read "creep" I don't really envision a psychopathic lunatic, more like fist-pumping misogynistic club hopper with a fake tan and douche posse.  And when I see CREEP's movie poster I get more of a feeling of big budget slasher than I do ultra-unsettling and extremely disturbing found footage character study.  But that's what we get.

Aaron is mostly behind the camera as Josef deliberately torments him, but incrementally, as to not scare the puppy away and often tugs on its chain with irregular bouts of hilarity to break the seriousness of the situation to continue the end game Josef has in mind.

When Aaron has finally had enough he retreats back home to safety, but is quickly reminded that Josef isn't quite finished with him.

CREEP impregnates feelings of uncomfortableness that most make efforts to avoid.  Those brave enough to endure the skincrawling descent have their level of commitment tested over and over as the tension and disturbed mystery that is Josef builds and builds until we're rewarded with one of the most climactic, yet almost slow motioned, denouement ever seen in a found-footage horror.  It's hand-over-mouth shocking and can't look away hypnotic.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lake Nowhere [2015]


Over the last few years, throwbacks, retros, homages, call them what you will, are kinda sorta the new found footage of horror.  And it's no surprise since the sub-genre has had its share of fairly successful installments, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (2009), V/H/S (2012-2014), and THE EDITOR (2014) to name just a few.  But most can't hold a candle to the good ones, and stack up even worse than the actual 35 year old films they're trying to nod to.  But LAKE NOWHERE should be proud to land somewhere in the middle.

A group of 20-somethings arrive at a family cottage for some weekend R&R and B&B (boozin' and bangin').  It isn't long before one friend goes skinny dippin', a second hangs a clothesline, a couple play around with a revolver, and another discovers an oddly placed cemetery where one read-aloud epitaph invokes a savage mask-wearing lake demon.  Drinks are drank, tokes are toked, kids are killed and we all get to see the most instantly-legendary party game involving only a brown paper bag.

Filmmakers Christopher Phelps and Maxim Van Scoy hit the 80's slasher formula nail right on the head.  From the synth score, ensemble cast, respectable body count, blood in buckets, and various bladed murder weapons to the premarital sex and inability to escape an out-runnable masked killer.  Equally impressive were their disinterest in heavily leaning on satirical humor or trying to overcorrect the typical slasher misgivings.

LAKE NOWHERE isn't without flaws.  The killer is laughably amateurish looking and almost non-scary and it's kills are uninspiringly unoriginal, although violent and bloody enough.  But what do you expect on a 1 paycheck budget, shot over 6 days with friends and family?!?!

LAKE NOWHERE isn't for every horror fan, hell, it isn't even for every slasher fan.  But there's a handful that will fall in love with this little engine that could.  And hopefully those few will be enough to give Phelps and Van Scoy the resources for a feature-length debut.


Monday, August 22, 2016

The Nightmare [2015]


 Have you ever woken from a nightmare, not being able to move, and being visited by dark creatures appearing to steal your soul?!?!  Good, neither have the 8 dweebs, burnouts, psycho-broads, and foodstampers featured in Rodney Ascher's new documentary exploring the made-up phenomenon of sleep paralysis.

Featured stars aside, THE NIGHTMARE also co-stars absolutely not a single clinical researcher or doctor.  Only the director himself, joining these sufferers, "thank you for being here, show me on the skeleton where the shadow people touched you."

The documentary goes through the early stages of the condition, how it progresses, and what the afflicted have done to lessen the episodes.  Each segment ends with a visual fictional interpretation, which I've been told that some find extremely scary.

But I really can't figure out what's scary about metaphysical creatures showing up in someone's bedroom and not doing anything...sure there was one guy who claimed a stuffed toy vending machine claw grabbed his dick and the fat girl assured us that she was demon raped...yet didn't feel a me it just sounds like someone forgot to do their kegels after a 6 month relationship with a BBD.

The subjects themselves, outside of 1, seem incredibly discreditable.  So I can't fathom how anyone would find this believable.  Especially when most were self-diagnosed by the internet, and the commonalities (red eyes, figure with a hat, shadowy beings) of the beings visiting them could entirely be group influenced.

And when one of your subjects draws you a picture like this and says this is what visits me at night, you pack up your shit and find yourself your next victim.  

All the garbage aside, THE NIGHTMARE is in fact visually stunning.  The lighting, set design and shadowy beings are breathtakingly beautiful on screen.  Thumbs up to that dude.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Hush [2016]

HUSH [2016]

 It has been 10 years since a home invasion horror captivated me so intensely, when ILS (2006) used its set pieces, mysterious antagonists, and rural setting so effectively that it made nights alone at the cottage almost pathetically unbearable.  Nights were scary, mysterious unmotivated killers were scary and silence was scary, and HUSH takes the latter to its limits.

Maddie is deaf mute living on her own in a secluded cabin while she completes her next big suspense novel.  What seemed like an ordinary day turns into a hellish night when a killer arrives and choose her for his next game of cat and mouse.

HUSH opens with a quick synopsis of the life of a deaf mute but actually does this is a very non-cliche and non-forced way.  Director/writer Mike Flanagan could have easily and unknowingly fell victim to the "gimmick opening", where filmmakers use the opening scenes to explain and describe the set of parameters the movies characters will be limited by, or a summation scene like STAR WARS's opening crawl text.  But instead he uses intense sounds and zoomed-in visuals to create the world of deaf mute, not unlike the brilliant opening of television's DEXTER.  

HUSH comes in at a lean 81 minutes and 70 of those minutes is an edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding thrill ride full of intense scares, unexpected twists, changing upper hands, and ultra-real resolve.  At no point did the film use the characters disability as a crutch in which the suspense depended on, it only built from it.  Nor did it seem like a film trying to exploit a gimmick.  It all just seemed a part of the package.

[Spoiler Start] One knock on HUSH was the shockingly early unmasking of our masked killer.  And I've toiled with the would I have or wouldn't I have if I was at the film's helm.  But I think Flanagan does this on purpose, not knowing the identity of our killer would be playing on the minds of viewers until that moment he's revealed, and what a let down that would be to find out he's no one.  I'm sure unmasking him early took a little less scare out of "The Man" but if it took a lot of risk out of the inevitable letdown viewers would have felt having him without a backstory it was worth the cost.[Spoiler End]

The SFX team also knocked one out of the park.  We see mangled hands, corkscrew caverns, and brick to head bashes to go along with the regular stabbings and crossbow punctures.  

Smart script, great scares, good gore.  What more can you ask for?  Highly recommended.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Bite [2015]

Bite [2015]

 Despite showcasing some of the best body-horror SFX of the 2010's, BITE falls short in almost all other components of an effective and successful modern horror.

"It's been this you or me?"

Sex starved Casey and her two bridesmaids venture down to Costa Rica for a little "let loose-ing" before she gets married by her mother-in-law controlled fiancee.  It isn't long before she gets all SEX AND THE CITY'd up on margaritas and pina colodas, cheats on her investment banker, and gets bit by the mysterious swimming, flying, super dragonfly.  Shortly after arriving home she is as horny as ever, grows a tail, and barfs bubble tea.

"Casey, what happened to you?  And why am I ignoring the obvious these insect orgy apartment decorations?!?!"

Severely hindered by an amateurish script, plasticine actors and zero subtance BITE hobbles along in between incredible special effect pieces which carry the film past mediocrity.  BITE's attempts at dark humor are childish and head shake inducing.  And lead actress, Elma Bergovic, can't save it with her creepy eye contacts and neck twitch method acting.

"Honey, we're expecting...millions."

It worth a looksy for any horror completist, but is an easy pass for anyone looking for the next big thing in horror.