Tag Archives: Horror

Guest Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Director: Drew Goddard
Year: 2012
Score: 7.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

"Wow, my hair looks a lot more ginger than I thought it did. Probably due a cut as well."

“Wow, my hair looks a lot more ginger than I thought it did. Probably due a cut as well.”

This is a very intriguing film because the horror is underlying rather than in your face, and so you find yourself almost overlooking the action that’s going on in front of you. As it happens, that’s a testament to how well the film is shot.

As a group of five friends head out to a cabin in the woods (duh), they are watched by what appears to be a team of government officials in some large complex. Once there, they find themselves set upon by zombies and, in a bid to escape, stumble across the real story that they are playing out.

The Cabin in the Woods has a very clever premise and, as mentioned above, is extremely well executed. What may have been a ten-a-penny zombie horror film is wrapped around something much darker, showing the indifference of man towards suffering when it is perceived as necessary. It’s poignant as it’s actually believable; it doesn’t feel like were the governments of the world given a similar situation this would be too far from what might happen (of course I realise this is nonsense but you know what I mean).

At no point does The Cabin in the Woods feel like a horror film, as the horror is incidental to the story. It’s absorbing and it keeps hold of you as it turns from zombie slasher to over the top government conspiracy almost seamlessly, and offers an alternative to a genre that too often becomes lazy and repetitive.

The only comment I have on it though is the clips of Japan; having finished watching it and spent some time thinking about how the plot works, not only does it not make any sense it is completely at odds with the whole premise of the plot. Why roughly 14 seconds of film incidental to the story bothered me isn’t clear, but it did. Just thought I’d mention it.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

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Guest Review: The Borderlands

Director: Elliot Goldner
Year: 2013
Score: 7.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

"Dammit Mike, I warned you about listening to One Direction! I told you this would happen!"

“Dammit Mike, I warned you about listening to One Direction! I told you this would happen!”

Unlike many proper film people, I’m a fan of ‘found footage’ horror films. The criticism levelled at them is that the shaky handheld aspect of the footage negates the need to have any real cinematic craft, and in many cases this is true. Sometimes however, when they hit the sweet spot, they can throw out something a bit good. And that rather neatly brings me on to The Borderlands, one of the more intriguing found footage horror films that I’ve come across.

The film follows a team of Vatican investigators sent to debunk an apparent miracle that occurred in a small West Country church. All footage is courtesy of head cams and fixed point cameras that are positioned around the church in an attempt to capture/catch out the potential miracle. As they begin to experience paranormal activity occurring throughout the church they desperately search for a rational explanation, and there are some genuinely scary moments generated through a skilful use of the found footage medium.

What is particularly notable about The Borderlands is the ending. Where many films stoop to a lazy jump scare to get their kicks, this has a beautiful crescendo building up over the course of about half an hour that is one of the best I’ve seen in a horror film. You’re built up to a point where you think you’re going to jump, but then it just carries on building and building to the point where you find yourself ready to scream ‘I can’t take it just scare me now!’, and when it actually happens you’re genuinely shocked by the twist that they come up with.

The characters are realistic and easy to identify with, and aside from the horror elements the plot is actually quite deep and absorbing. If you are the kind of person who would normally dismiss a Paranormal Activity style found footage film as not for you, I would urge you to give this a whirl; it may just surprise you.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: Peeping Tom

Director: Michael Powell
Year: 1960
Score: 7.5/10

Fittingly, a film about voyeurism contains cinema's first cameltoe.

Fittingly, a film about voyeurism contains cinema’s first cameltoe.

Controversial British movie about a man who murders women and films their final moments. It bears some superficial similarities to the 1979 film Bloodline, but is far more successful. Though billed as a horror movie, it isn’t scary as such; it’s more creepy and psychologically disturbing. Its real strength lies in its ideas, its willingness to wallow in depravity (reminding me of David Fincher’s Se7en in that regard), and the utterly unpleasant lead performance from Carl Boehm. Some aspects are a touch simplistic (e.g. the Freudian stuff), but it all hangs together fairly well.

It’s easy to see why it would have caused such an uproar when first released, not only for its plot and subject matter, but for the matter-of-fact way in which the seediest parts of British society are depicted. The interpretation advanced by some critics that the whole film is a comment on horror filmmaking, and the voyeuristic position of the audiences of such films, is viable and intriguing. Recommended.

Guest Review: The Woman in Black

Director: James Watkins
Year: 2012
Score: 5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Note the pictures on the wall – they were stolen from the walls of Hogwarts to act as a comforter to Daniel Radcliffe in the hope that his acting would improve. Didn’t work, but worth a go.

Note the pictures on the wall – they were stolen from the walls of Hogwarts to act as a comforter to Daniel Radcliffe in the hope that his acting would improve. Didn’t work, but worth a go.

I’m a huge fan of The Woman in Black. I’ve been scared by the theatre production and chilled by the book, so I was over the moon to hear that it was coming to film. As I expectantly sat down with my popcorn and my bottle of cider, I was hoping to see the story taken to terrifying new levels. Unfortunately, the only frightening thing about this film is Daniel Radcliffe’s acting.

It follows the story of Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer mourning the death of his wife and caring for his son who takes up the job of sorting through the effects of the recently deceased Mrs Drablow at the dark and overbearing Eel Marsh House. Whilst there he finds himself pursued by the film’s namesake, and embarks on a journey to try and solve her mystery before she tears him and the village apart. The story, whilst not true to Susan Hill’s original, is still reasonably strong, and there are a couple of occasional strong horror moments which do capture the isolated terror for which the plot is renowned. Sadly however these moments are few and far between, instead opting for the lazy and disappointing jumpiness that horror films resort to when they run out of inspiration. It’s a shame as there’s nothing worse than building to a crescendo of uneasiness and dread, only to have it spoiled by the boogie man jumping out and shrieking at you in a jumpy but ultimately unsatisfying manner.

The real disappointment however is Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Arthur Kipps. He turns in a display which could be described as wooden at best and distracting at worst. You know that thing where you’re watching a film and all of a sudden Christopher Walken comes on and you go “oh look! It’s Christopher Walken”? It’s a bit like that, but you’re thinking “Oh look! It’s Daniel Radcliffe and he’s really not doing a very good job is he?” It’s one of those distractingly bad performances usually reserved for Nicolas Cage.

I would wholeheartedly encourage you to take a trip to the theatre and see The Woman in Black; it’s bloody brilliant. The film sadly does not live up to expectations, and is as forgettable as it is disappointing.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Guest Review: Sinister

Director: Scott Derrickson
Year: 2012
Score: 6.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Still from Sinister

Suddenly Mrs. Wilson regretted her decision to answer the ‘Homeschool Substitute Teacher Wanted’ ad.

Sinister is a strange film, as it doesn’t really sit right as a horror film. As you might imagine, a horror film’s most pressing aim is to be scary; some are really bad at it admittedly, but that is the ultimate aim that it should be striving for. Sinister on the other hand doesn’t feel scary, nor does it feel at any point that it is trying to be scary. This sounds like a criticism and a sure sign that this film is a failure, but in practice it’s actually quite an interesting film. The best way I can describe it is if you imagine a version of Kiss the Girls in which the serial killer is a ghost.

Quick summary: writer moves to a house where some murdering occurred, and whilst unpacking finds a projector and box of home films in the attic; writer watches them and finds that they’re snuff films, continues to watch them anyway, then spooky stuff occurs. It’s quite an odd sensation watching this film; you’re waiting for the horror and it just never happens, but at the same time it tows you along in a relatively interesting plot. It’s almost like it’s a failed horror film that’s fluked its way into being a thriller.

Compared to its peers (Paranormal Activity and Insidious), Sinister fails. It doesn’t make the cut as a horror film, and those (like me) who were expecting to be scared will find their nerves intact and trousers unsoiled. So much does it fail in fact, by rights I would have scored this perhaps a three out of ten were it being judged purely as a horror. In isolation however, Sinister is interesting and rather than a good plot poorly executed, it would fall into the category ‘Not what we were looking for but we’ll take it’.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Guest Review: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Director: Christopher B. Landon
Year: 2014
Score: 1/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

I too experienced this desire to sew my eyelids shut during his movie.

I too experienced this desire to sew my eyelids shut during his movie.

Having enjoyed Paranormal Activity 4, I thought I’d give this a chance. It was a serious mistake, and I feel cheated out of an hour and a half of my life. I could have gone for a lovely walk. I could have written a poem. Hell, I could have played with my kids. But no – I watched this tidal wave of drivel for 84 minutes.

If anybody cares (you don’t), it follows the story of three teenage friends, one of whom finds a bite mark on his arm. He experiences some cool superhuman powers like being able to lean over a bit, then becomes possessed. The plot is laboured and pointless; it’s like it exists only to justify the daft ending of the previous film. It doesn’t make sense as the events only tie together if you take wild leaps of assumption, and even then it’s still fairly incoherent; it has the feel of a horror film put together by a committee of really bad media studies students. The only moment of enjoyment to be had in this film is when the fat kid falls on his arse.

It bears no resemblance to the preceding Paranormal Activity films, with only token links to the previous ones in order to justify its title. It is a thoroughly pointless film which at no point ventures above its own personal zenith of dreadful.

I was once told that the words ‘explosive diarrhoea’ were considered an example of onomatopoeia as your lips make the same movements saying it as your arse does when you experience it. I would imagine the same could be said of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones as I imagine your lips make the same movements saying it as whatever sphincter it was that ejected this nonsense into a script did.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Guest Review: V/H/S/2

Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sánchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans & Jason Eisener
Year: 2013
Score: 8.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

The child version of Doom did not prove a huge success.

The child version of Doom did not prove a huge success.

A couple of things – I love found footage horror films, and I haven’t seen the original V/H/S. All good? Right. This film is unbelievable, and is by a clear margin the best horror film I’ve seen in a long time. For those unfamiliar with the premise, V/H/S/2 follows the found footage of two reporters who get into the house of a missing teenager, and then sit and watch a collection of found footage videos.

It just has everything. Ghosts, crazy cults, monsters, zombies… it just goes on and on. There’s several different short films, and although each is only about fifteen minutes long I found myself completely absorbed and at points genuinely frightened by what was going on. Particularly the cult one. Part of me would like to meet the people who dreamt this up, but the other part of me thinks that if I did it would be my civic duty to beat them to death and prevent them inflicting any more of their unfettered madness upon the world.

I know there’s divided opinion on found footage films. Many don’t like them, arguing that they’re lazy, unrealistic and difficult to lose yourself in. There are instances where this is true, and there is some absolute dross out there. You do, however, get some real gems. The Last Exorcism is fantastic, Paranormal Activity created a whole new genre and The Blair Witch Project (deal with it), whether you like it or not, will go down as a film that truly changed the horror landscape. As unusual as it is to say this about a sequel, V/H/S/2 deserves to sit alongside if not above all of them. Genuinely frightening, cleverly tied together footage wrapped around the most important quality a film of this nature needs: a reason for the protagonists to be holding a camera the whole damn time.

If you like horror films, you HAVE to see this one.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: Resolution

Directors: Justin Benson & Aaron Scott Moorhead
Year: 2012
Score: 6.5/10

These three UFO cultists are played by writer/co-director Justin Benson, co-director Aaron Moorhead, and producer David Clarke Johnson, Jr. Based on the content of the film, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out that all three are genuinely members of a UFO cult.

These three UFO cultists are played by writer/co-director Justin Benson, co-director Aaron Moorhead, and producer David Clarke Johnson, Jr. Based on the content of the film, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out that all three are genuinely members of a UFO cult.

Intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying low budget horror movie with a central premise I’m loathe to discuss for fear of spoiling it. Suffice it to say this isn’t the kind of horror movie that aims to freak you out with shocking imagery, or by laying the tension-signifying music on thick, or by over-using violence or gore. Instead it puts two well-drawn characters into a relatively realistic situation, then gradually throws ‘unexplained phenomena’ at them with explanations that all consist of well-worn horror tropes, and then takes a left turn to subvert and comment on those tropes. Its meta nature has inevitably led to comparisons with The Cabin in the Woods; I prefer this one, but they really are vastly different in what they’re trying to do and why they turn meta. It’s reasonably well-made and the two leads – unknowns Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran – do well with the material. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending even though I realise it was consistent with the premise.

Guest Review: Paranormal Activity 4

Directors: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Year: 2012
Score: 7/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Re-enacting the chest buster scene from Alien, but with less successful results.

Re-enacting the chestburster scene from Alien, but with less successful results.

Whilst the original was polarising between those who thought it was scary and those that thought it was dross, the second and third instalments were pretty much filed unanimously under dross. Why they bothered with a fourth (and fifth) was a bit beyond me, however I was pleasantly and terrifiedly surprised at how reinvigorated the franchise had become.

Breaking from the norm by starring a family outside of the cursed genealogical pool for the first time, there’s little to no effort made this time out to generate empathy in the characters. It is purely like watching CCTV footage of a family, and you don’t really bond with them at any point. That said, that’s part of what makes this one scary; it induces the sort of raw fear that you’d actually get from watching something real. There were moments (oh God were there moments) that you can see coming, you know they’re coming, and they’re toe curlingly frightening to watch unfold.

I would liken this much more to The Last Exorcism, one of the best horror films in recent times, than I would its Paranormal predecessors. It’s frightening, fresh and clever (especially the scenes with the Xbox Kinect), and well worth your time if you love a good horror film.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: Escape From Tomorrow

Director: Randy Moore
Year: 2013
Score: 4.5/10

Creepiest cameo appearance by Winnie the Pooh and his friends in cinematic history.

Creepiest cameo appearance by Winnie the Pooh and his friends in cinematic history.

A film worth watching only to see how Randy Moore and his small cast and crew managed to shoot it surreptitiously on location at Disneyland and Disney World without permission from the murine authorities. It’s a low-budget black-and-white psychological horror flick with some pretty awful acting and even worse visual effects (which appear to be used whenever particular scenes couldn’t be practically shot at the theme parks themselves). There are some effective parts, particularly in the first half, mostly those that riff on the interpersonal conflicts that invariably crop up between family members at theme parks. The second half, though, goes off the rails and veers into surrealism and narrative ambiguity that don’t really work; it ends up becoming quite a slog to get through. Nonetheless, if you have any interest in ‘guerrilla filmmaking’, or you’re a fan of the Disney parks, it’s probably still worth checking out. The most disturbing line of dialogue (by a considerable margin) is the following, yelled out by a woman during a sex scene: “Fuck me. Feel my vagina. I think you found my Hidden Mickey. Hysterectomy!”.

Review: Evil Dead

Director: Fede Alvarez
Year: 2013
Score: 6/10

She seems mostly armless.

She seems mostly armless.

It’s hard to go into this without preconceptions; mine were that it would probably be an entirely pointless remake and that it wouldn’t work without Bruce Campbell (who only appears in a superfluous fleeting post-credits cameo for fan service purposes). As it happened, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, so perhaps low expectations are the way to go. It has some pretty over-the-top bits, which is what you want from an Evil Dead movie, but they don’t have the humorous undertones that made the original trilogy work. In place of humour there’s the bland creepiness and shocking visuals that are so common in contemporary horror movies. The performances are passable at best, and some of the character/relationship beats miss their mark. Ultimately, while it was successful in that it gave me some scares and wasn’t the complete dud it could so easily have been, I’m still not convinced it was worth making this rather than an original horror film, and I prefer the first two Raimi/Campbell movies.

Review: Army of Darkness

Director: Sam Raimi
Year: 1992
Score: 5.5/10

Is there anything funnier than a skeleton finger yanking Ash by the nose? (Did anyone else answer 'yes, almost anything'?)

Is there anything funnier than a skeleton finger yanking Ash by the nose? (Did anyone else answer ‘yes, almost anything’?)

The weakest instalment in the Evil Dead trilogy, I give Sam Raimi points for ambition but he loses them for shoddy execution. It seems bizarre that the sequel to a pair of cabin-in-the-woods horror movies should be a medieval quest comedy, but in some ways it kind of works. It is, however, often very silly – and not in a good way. It’s also got the lamest plot of the trilogy. I love the totally inconsistent use of Flowery Elizabethan English, e.g. “When thou retrievest the book from its cradle, you must recite the words…”. Many locations look more like we’re watching a western than a medieval movie. It’s also not clear where Ash learnt swordplay, leadership, battle tactics, or how to make gunpowder. Plot holes? Surely not!

Review: Evil Dead II

Director: Sam Raimi
Year: 1987
Score: 8/10

Sing it with me: "There ain't no way to hide your flyin' eyes..."

Sing it with me: “There ain’t no way to hide your flyin’ eyes…”

The best film in the franchise, this one is funny and scary and gross, all in just the right proportions. Bruce Campbell is perfect, bringing Ash to a new level. It’s the Evil Dead II Ash that we all remember; it’s here that he really gets his mojo (plus his chainsaw arm and boomstick), and it’s here that he best delivers the catchphrases he’s known for (all of which were later ripped off by 3D Realms in the video game Duke Nukem 3D). Big chunks of the movie feature him on his own (apart from demon/s, possessed hands, etc.), which is not a bad thing. So many great scenes; I think my favourite is Ash vs. his hand (still attached at that point). The biggest flaw of the film is that the final act is mostly used to set up the weak third instalment, Army of Darkness, instead of providing a satisfying stand-alone ending.

Review: The Evil Dead

Director: Sam Raimi
Year: 1981
Score: 7.5/10

So... tree rape. The jokes write themselves.

So… tree rape. The jokes write themselves.

The film that kicked off the Evil Dead saga is rough around the edges but full of memorable moments and gruesome visuals. The basic premise is now so familiar but would presumably have seemed original at the time. Sam Raimi uses lots of imaginative camera angles and shots, including of course the oft-imitated ‘shaky cam’ representing the fast-moving demonic point of view. Bruce Campbell is perfectly cast as Ash and doesn’t take long to make the role his own, creating one of the horror genre’s most iconic (and amusing) characters. The balance of horror and comedy is a little off in this one; Raimi was still learning his craft at this point, and didn’t get that particular balance right until the sequel six years later. Notably, one of the Coen brothers (Joel, to be precise) served as an assistant editor and learned a thing or two. If you think you’re a horror fan and you haven’t seen this, well, you’re not really a horror fan, are you?