Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) review

book-of-shadows-blair-witch-2-posterDirector: Joe Berlinger

Starring: Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristine Skyler, Stephen Barker Turner

JEFF – “If you don’t believe in the Blair Witch then why the hell did you come along?”

KIM – “I thought the movie was cool.”

After The Blair Witch Project sold out cinemas and soiled boxer shorts around the world, a sequel was quickly greenlit to capitalise on its massive success.

There was one hefty problem, though. Part of what made the first film so successful was the fact it came out of nowhere.

Here was this film about young filmmakers who had gone into the woods and disappeared, and crucially it had this found-footage style that made many cinemagoers question whether what they were seeing was actually fiction.

Realising (perhaps wisely) that lightning probably couldn’t strike twice in the same place, director Joe Berlinger and the rest of the Blair Witch 2 crew instead decided to ditch everything that made the first film a success and go in a completely different direction. Continue reading “Book Of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) review”

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V/H/S (2012) review

VHS posterDirectors: David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Ingard, Radio Silence

Starring: Hannah Fierman, Mike Donlan, Drew Swayer, Joe Sykes, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal, Norma C Quinones, Drew Moerlein, Helen Rogers, Daniel Kaufman, Chad Willella, Nicole Erb

“You’re all gonna fucking die up here.” (Wendy, V/H/S)

I’ve spoken of the low-budget junkyard that is the found footage genre a number of times on TWABM in the past.

While early examples like Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project felt fresh and genuinely terrifying, for the most part the genre has since become a cop-out, an easy way for talent-starved directors to make a cheap horror movie without much effort or skill.

For every umpteenth Banshee Chapter, The Tunnel and Frost out there though, there’s the occasional Paranormal Activity or The Taking Of Deborah Logan – films that actually use the limitations of the found footage style to their advantage.

V/H/S falls firmly in this latter category, offering a selection of creepy tales that are made better by their low-quality production values rather than forced to grudgingly accept them as a necessary evil. Continue reading “V/H/S (2012) review”

It Follows (2014) review

It Follows posterDirector: David Robert Mitchell

Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Jake Weary, Daniel Zovatto

“She can do the same thing I did. It should be easier for her, she’s a girl. Any guy would be with you. Just sleep with someone else and tell him to do the same thing. Maybe it’ll never come back.” (Hugh, It Follows)

Slasher film convention dictates that the killer will often walk slowly towards their victim, who in turn will happily provide suspense by falling over any number of times and making themselves easier to catch.

It Follows takes this often mocked trope and makes it scary again by adding a couple of clever twists. Continue reading “It Follows (2014) review”

Poltergeist (2015) review

Poltergeist 2015 posterDirector: Gil Kenan

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements, Kyle Catlett, Jared Harris, Saxon Sharbino, Jane Adams

“They’re here.” (Madison, Poltergeist)

As you’ll know if you already read my review, the original 1982 Poltergeist is one of my favourite films of all time.

I should also point out that I’m not the sort of person who instantly hates remakes because they’re remakes. I got all that out of my system during my film buff university days and these days I’ll happily judge remakes – such as the brilliant 2004 Dawn Of The Dead and 2005 King Kong (hey, I liked it) – on their own merits.

That said, this new Poltergeist is shite. Continue reading “Poltergeist (2015) review”

Unfriended (2014) review

unfriended_posterDirector: Levan Gabriadze

Starring: Shelly Hennig, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson, Heather Sossaman, Moses Storm, Will Peltz, Renee Olstead

KEN: “It’s probably just a glitch.”

VAL: “Well the glitch just typed.”

Here’s a tip about being in horror films that Scream forgot to address. If you were either directly or indirectly involved in someone’s death, it’s probably a good idea to lie low on every major anniversary of said offing.

For some reason, those affected usually decide to take revenge one, five or ten years to the day after the incident. Personally, I’d go for the element of surprise: “It’s been seven and a half months since you killed me, so time for you to get all dead and that.”

Unfriended takes place exactly a year after high school student Laura Barns committed suicide. Guess what happens next. Continue reading “Unfriended (2014) review”

Poltergeist (1982) review

poltergeist_posterDirector: Tobe Hooper

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Beatrice Straight, Zelda Rubenstein

“This house has many hearts.” (Tangina, Poltergeist)

What do you get when you combine Steven Spielberg at the height of his power – right after directing E.T. – and Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

The answer is simple: you get one of my favourite films ever.

First though, some housekeeping. It has long been debated whether Hooper had much influence during the making of the film, with many reports and actor testimonies claiming that Spielberg had most of the creative control.

You see, Spielberg had a clause in his contract that stated that while he was working on E.T. he wasn’t allowed to direct another movie. It’s claimed, then, that Hooper was brought in to take on the role of director while Spielberg pulled the strings behind the scenes. Continue reading “Poltergeist (1982) review”

Silent House (2011) review

Silent House posterDirectors: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Adam Barnett, Haley Murphy

“Daddy?” (Sarah, about a hundred times, Silent House)

Here’s a fun fact: there are actually more movies about haunted houses than there are houses in North America.

Okay, that isn’t true. But it’s getting to the stage that I wouldn’t be surprised.

Silent House at least tries to do something different by introducing a rarely used gimmick: the entire film is presented as one single shot.

Granted, it does cheat a little bit – more on that later – but the concept is at least enough to keep your interest for a while. Continue reading “Silent House (2011) review”

Deadly Blessing (1981) review

Deadly Blessing posterDirector: Wes Craven

Starring: Maren Jensen, Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman

“If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out. If thine own hand offends thee… then in God’s name, cut it off.” (Isaiah, Deadly Blessing)

There’s an interesting story told by screenwriter Glenn Benest in Arrow Video’s upcoming DVD release of Deadly Blessing (this review is based on a review copy of said DVD).

The story goes that a young Sharon Stone, in her first big role, had just come from a modelling career and had no idea how to act or what to do.

Like a deer in headlights, Stone kept asking director Wes Craven for guidance and help her with her acting.

The cast and crewmembers looked at each other and Craven explained that he didn’t do that sort of thing, he was more about setting up shots and the like. “GOD DAMN IT,” Stone then screamed at the top of her voice, “WOULD YOU DIRECT ME?” Continue reading “Deadly Blessing (1981) review”

A Haunting At Silver Falls (2013) review

haunting_at_silver_falls_posterDirector: Brett Donowho

Starring: Alix Elizabeth Gitter, James Cavlo, Tara Westwood, Steve Bacic, Erick Avari

LARRY – “There’s a lot of dead people in Silver Falls. Didn’t anyone tell you? It’s, um, Ghost City USA.”

JORDAN – “Right. So, who died?”

LARRY – “Who didn’t die? I’ve been to six funerals. There were several suicides, a car accident, a bulimic whose stomach exploded…”

Often, when I watch a film about ghosts, I like to apply my patented Louise Test™.

My wife (and co-presenter of the That Was A Bit Mental podcast) isn’t a massive fan of ghost movies, so usually when I want to watch one she’ll sit at the PC instead and browse the internet.

Occasionally she’ll look over at the telly and, should she see a ghost, audibly express her dismay at having done so. That’s when I can tell the film’s ghosts are effective.

A Haunting At Silver Falls offers more screen time to its ghosts than any other film in recent memory, except for maybe Casper. And yet, as Louise looked over to the screen numerous times throughout, she didn’t bat an eyelid. Continue reading “A Haunting At Silver Falls (2013) review”

Twin Peaks international pilot (1990) review

And so we come to the end of Twin Peaks week on That Was A Bit Mental. To ensure you haven’t missed out on anything, be sure to read back on my reviews of season 1, season 2, Fire Walk With Me and The Missing Pieces. Hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews!

twinpeaks_internationalpilot_posterDirector: David Lynch

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Peggy Lipton, James Marshall, Eric DaRe, Everett McGill, Joan Chen, Piper Laurie, Ray Wise, Sheryl Lee, Al Strobel, Frank Silva

“Through the darkness of futures past, the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds, fire walk with me.” (Mike, Twin Peaks international pilot)

When David Lynch and Mark Frost originally pitched the idea of Twin Peaks to TV network ABC, they agreed to fund the pilot episode on one condition.

Since the pilot was going to cost $1.6 million to make, ABC wanted Lynch and Frost to write and film an ending, revealing Laura Palmer’s killer and drawing a line under it all by the end of that single episode. Continue reading “Twin Peaks international pilot (1990) review”