Cloverfield (2008) review

Cloverfield posterDirector: Matt Reeves

Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Jessica Lucas, Mike Vogel, TJ Miller, Lizzy Caplan

HUD – “For all we know, it’s from another planet and it flew here.”

MARLENA – “Like Superman?”

HUD – “Yeah, exactly like… wait – you know who Superman is?”

MARLENA – “Oh. My. God. YOU know who Superman is? I’m, like, feeling something here. Are you aware of Garfield?”

For some reason despite my love of horror movies, my penchant for giant monster movies and my odd knack of stumbling upon countless found footage films (every word there linking to a different example), I’ve managed to go eight years without watching Cloverfield.

With its sequel 10 Cloverfield Lane recently released in cinemas, I figured if I was going to be late to the party I should at least do it at a relevant time.

I’m glad I did, because – and apologies if you already know this – Cloverfield is a nifty wee film. Continue reading “Cloverfield (2008) review”

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”

Alien Abduction (2014) review

Alien Abduction posterDirector: Matty Beckerman

Starring: Corey Eid, Jillian Clare, Katherine Sigismund, Jeff Bowser, Riley Polanski, Peter Holden

JILLIAN – “Are those stars?”

RILEY – “Stars don’t move like that.”

By this point in my life I must have seen more ‘found footage’ movies than I’ve had lamb vindaloos, and let’s just say Indian Express in Wandsworth greatly appreciates my custom.

After all, a quick gander at the ‘handheld footage’ tag on this site will reveal that I’ve reviewed no fewer than 15 of the bastards  on this site already.

Alien Abduction at least tries something slightly different by going with a subject matter you don’t often get in these first-person frightfests. See if you can guess what it is by the title. Continue reading “Alien Abduction (2014) 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”

The Last Exorcism (2010) review

The Last Exorcism posterDirector: Daniel Stamm

Starring: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Caleb Jones, Tony Bentley

“I’m not comfortable that we’re in a house with someone who’s doing pictures of my head being chopped off.” (Daniel, The Last Exorcism)

In most exorcism movies, a priest has to convince a skeptical parent that their child doesn’t have mental issues and an exorcism ritual is needed to save them.

The Last Exorcism is interesting because it does the complete opposite. Instead, it’s the priest who doesn’t have faith in the ritual and it’s the parent who’s adamant it should take place. Continue reading “The Last Exorcism (2010) review”

My Little Eye (2002) review

My Little Eye posterDirector: Marc Evans

Starring: Sean Johnson, Kris Lemche, Stephen O’Reilly, Laura Regan, Jennifer Sky, Bradley Cooper, Nick Mennell, literally nobody else

(holding a gun to the camera) “I know what this means. Fuck you. Do your fucking research, okay, ’cause him doing that to himself was the best thing that ever fucking happened to me. Fuck you.” (Rex, My Little Eye)

Although the whole ‘found footage’ thing has been done to death these days, it’s a little odd that the similar ‘hidden camera’ sub-genre hasn’t been quite as overused.

Both are of course similar – they both give the impression the audience is viewing real-life events through standard video cameras rather than a studio-made movie – but tonally, they can be very different.

My Little Eye, released over a decade ago (I went to see it at the cinema when I was at university: God, I feel old now), is a fine example of ‘hidden camera’ horror and proof that, when done well, it can lead to some effective stuff. Continue reading “My Little Eye (2002) review”

The Taking Of Deborah Logan (2014) review

The Taking Of Deborah Logan posterDirector: Adam Robitel

Starring: Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay, Michelle Ang, Ryan Cutrona

“I’m not interested in being exploited.” (Deborah, The Taking Of Deborah Logan)

It’s all well and good watching and writing about horror movies but there are some real-life horrors that are often far more terrifying than any creature that could be dreamed up by Hollywood.

A powerful example is Alzheimer’s disease, a horrendous condition that slowly eats away at the sufferer’s brain, initially inflicting short-term memory loss and ending with behavioural issues, an inability to recognise family members and ultimately early death.

This is a disease that can tear apart families and turn previously docile people into aggressive, sometimes violent shells of their former selves. As horrible as it is to say it, then, it’s a condition ripe for study in horror film.

It’s the central theme, at least initially, surrounding The Taking Of Deborah Logan, a found-footage style mockumentary about a film crew studying a woman’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and their discovery of something even worse. Continue reading “The Taking Of Deborah Logan (2014) review”

Frost (2012) review

Frost posterDirector: Reynir Lyngdal

Starring: Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir, Björn Thors

“If anyone can hear me, my name is Agla Helgadottir and I am calling from the base camp of the glacial research expedition. There are two of us here. One man is dead and five others are missing. Please send help, I don’t know what is going on here.” (Agla, Frost)

Unlike many horror film fans, I’m not yet sick of the ‘found footage’ genre. First made popular with The Blair Witch Project (although Cannibal Holocaust preceded it by decades), when a film uses it properly it can be bloody effective.

Unfortunately, most films don’t. For the most part, ‘found footage’ is a solution to a problem – usually a funding one – rather than a deliberate artistic style. Why bother with lighting, shot composition and the like when you can just go down the shakycam route and slash the budget drastically?

Frost is, unfortunately, one of the worst examples of this I’ve seen in a long time.  Despite having a potentially interesting setting for a film of this genre and a trailer that genuinely excited me, the actual result falls short in so many ways it might as well have been directed by a midget to complete the full set. Continue reading “Frost (2012) review”

Banshee Chapter (2013) review

The Banshee Chapter posterDirector: Blair Erickson

Starring: Katia Winter, Ted Levine, Michael McMillan

“Every now and then you run up into a night that’s a stone-ass bummer from start to finish. In nights like those, if you know what’s good for you, you hunker down and you hide. This is not one of those nights.” (Thomas Blackburn, Banshee Chapter)

WARNING: This review contains images that may be disturbing. If you’re easily freaked out by creepy faces, it might be a good idea not to scroll down.

First, a history lesson. In the early 1950s, the US government and the CIA started a programme called MKUltra. This was a highly dodgy project in which unwitting US and Canadian citizens were made the test subjects of ‘behavioural engineering’ research.

Over the course of more than two decades, normal Americans were subjected to administration of drugs, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse and torture – by their own government – as a test to see how their mental states and brain functions could be altered. Continue reading “Banshee Chapter (2013) review”

Halloween: Resurrection (2002) review

Halloween Resurrection posterDirector: Rick Rosenthal

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Brad Loree, Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Sean Patrick Thomas, Daisy McCrackin

“Trick or treat, muthafucka.” (Freddie Harris, Halloween: Resurrection)

Miramax achieved the impossible by taking the flatlining Halloween series and resurrecting it with the back-to-basics Halloween H20.

With Michael Myers relevant and scary again, it was therefore inevitable that another Halloween would come, even though it seemed Myers was well and truly dead after the last film.

How did they manage to bring the pale pursuer back then? Well, I’ll tell you, because I’m nice like that. Continue reading “Halloween: Resurrection (2002) review”