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To paraphrase Saucy Jack - "Years from now people will look back and say that Cube gave birth to 21st century Psychological Horror". It sure did.
I've always been a devout fan of story-centered Horror films with smart and surprising plot twists and endings. To me, these films (for instance many titles by James Wan) embody the perfect combination of Horror and Psychological Thriller (most titles of the Saw anthology come to mind as a shining example). As a fan of such, I must pay proper respects to Cube, which just might be the title that had originally presented this particular sub-genre years before the first Saw reinvented it (even though it sadly fails to deliver an actual plot twist).
As the plot summary and trailers have most likely told you already - Cube begins, continues and ends with the struggle of six strangers who awake to a living nightmare in which they're trapped inside a giant maze rigged with traps. The way I see it, Cube relies on three main features. First, the film's main feature is deception, as everything we're made to think we know about each character on one hand and their devastatingly discomforting predicament on the other first comes into question and later, at times, shatters completely. This serves as a metonymic representation of the fact that nothing around is familiar, known of comprehendible, both in the maze and in the characters' lives as part of human society.
The second feature is discomfort, which has become a key characteristic of many modern Horror films that have crossed the classical boundaries of a haunting ghost or a hunting killer. From the start, the main antagonist is the setting (i.e. the maze), into which the characters have been forced and out of which they barely have a prayer of escaping. As stress, fatigue and of course hunger and dehydration are gradually added to the equation - the characters become paranoid and distrustful, sometimes for good reasons. The genius single location and lack of any flashbacks and past/future scenes only serve to enhance the sensation of discomfort: there's nowhere and no time to which the characters can escape, the nightmare is real and is the only thing that exists for them.
The third and less profound feature is the philosophical dimension added by the characters' different perceptions and attitudes regarding life's rules of conduct and terms of endeavor, so to say. As they discuss and relate their own individual explanation to their situation - questions of life, humanity and personality arise, making the viewer constantly think and ponder while following the characters' attempts at survival and escape. While this might have been considered a relief from the aforementioned sense of discomfort (since focusing on anything but the reality of the nightmarish predicament might give a false sense of hope) - it turns out it actually feeds the fear and despair, as each explanation is both realistic and authentic (to the extent you'd attribute logic and rationale to conspiracy theories and sci-fi scenarios) and more terrible than the other.
The acting is professional and excellent, the story is original and innovative and the plot is compelling and suspenseful, always keeping the viewer on edge. Even the minimalistic soundtrack is great, although too much resembling a Slasher theme in my opinion. The only let down for me had been, as I mentioned in the beginning, the blunt lack of an actual plot twist, or an actual ending. While the open ending could be considered another element of discomfort and lack of clarity - I firmly believe a smart plot twist would have made this film perfect.
And yet, made over two decades ago - Cube still sets a standard few Horror and Psychological Thriller titles manage to meet today. It isn't frightening of that scary (as it doesn't really rely on fear), but a true psychological Horror combining discomfort, torture, despair and pursuit which manage to exquisitely deliver every stressful and agonizing sensation to the viewing audience. While this is solely my personal opinion - I can't recommend this film enough, even to those who aren't particularly fond of Horror films.
Those who survive the first 60 minutes of boredom, confusion and a complete mess will be generously rewarded by the conclusion.
This is one of those times in which I find myself lacking for words. I don't condone including spoilers in reviews, not even for the sake of a much required debate and discussion. I personally find Animas to be original and innovative, even groundbreaking in its take on teenage angst while coping with mental illnesses. It's the sort of films whith an effect one couldn't possibly grasp without watching it, beginning to end. Due to this very reason, it's almost impossible to give a fair spoiler-free review, as in such films any piece of information constitutes a potential spoiler.
The story revolves around the relationship of Abraham (Ivan Pellicer), nicknamed Bram in what I believe is a homage to the great author of Dracula, and his best friend Alex (Clare Durant). Having met as kids 10 years earlier - they now try to come to terms with high-school graduation as two stereotypical "Goths" dealing with anxiety and depression. It is also quite bluntly implied that Alex might want more than friendship, as she finds it very difficult to accept Abraham's new (and first) romantic relationship.
Simultaneously, a completely different plot takes place, one that is under the surface and is initially described solely by Alex's close encounter with a certain stalking figure, displaying what could be perceived as supernatural qualities. The truth of what happens is only revealed towards the end in quite a stunning plot twist, but not towards the very end, so the characters still have time to conclude the affairs while still leaving plenty of loose ends for a completely open ending.
The acting is superb, especially considering I believe none of you have ever even heard the main cast's names. Everything is right on the spot and these two should have a bright acting future ahead. The cinematography is exquisite, utilizing effects and angles in a manner which really enhances certain otherwise average scenes. Even the soundtrack fits like a glove and is utilized professionally and impressively.
The problem? The first hour or so is spent in utter confusion which leads to boredom. I had to struggle with myself to keep watching and have actually watched it over the course of two days (during two viewing sessions). The sheer mess of things does indeed serve to create a much more impactful effect once things do fall into place and become clear - but I can't help but think the price is too high. There had to have been a way to write a more compelling build up while still maintaining the plot twist's impact. Honestly, I'm certain this is the main cause for yet another film getting such unfair rates and reviews. Additionally, while Animas is an exquisite psychological thriller - it isn't a Horror film, and quite frankly I'm getting quite fed up with all these deliberately misleading tags and trailers. This isn't Horror, why present it as such?
All in all, the first hour feels terrible and like a waste of time, while the rest of the film turns the entire final product into a masterpiece, if one only allows themselves to forgive the first part and be dazzled by the sheer genius conclusion. I don't know if I can wholeheartedly recommend it in general, as I'm sure many out there would not find the overall experience rewarding. At all. From my part - I'm grateful to my curiosity for keeping me onboard so I could have my mind blown, even if it took a lot of effort.
Mata Batin (2017)
Average film with bluntly stolen "plot twists". Try it if you find nothing better to watch.
Due to Netflix's rather poor selection of Horror films, I've found myself lately trying many of its foreign Horror titles, namely a few Indonesian films. The 3rd Eye is in a good place in the middle, as it's average and mediocre, nothing more and nothing less. It's far from being a great film that would leave a lasting impression, but it's just as far from being the terrible mess that certain reviews here have claimed it to be. Entertaining enough for a one time watch as long as you don't expect to be swept off your feet.
The plot and pace are good enough, as is the acting. Unlike most reviews here I actually liked the CGI used to show the ghosts, which are actually quite terrifying. The jump scares are numerous and often, and while the very use and utilization of them qualifies as a cheap cheat in my book - they do serve their goal of scaring you straight. The most negative feature by far, in my opinion, is the terrible attempt at creating plot twists that are not merely unoriginal - but bluntly stolen from all too familiar Hollywood films. Such an attempt was unnecessary at best and damaging to the overall viewing experience at worse. I honestly don't understand why the writers would create such a story, all of which is meant to try and make the plot twists more "twisty'. Too bad, as the film could have been more than average and even good had it not been for such amateurish writing (this is also what has made me rate it 4 instead of 5, as no plot twists or even bad original plot twists are better than stolen ones).
All in all? The film is enough. Scary enough, interesting enough and entertaining enough. I wouldn't recommend watching it as I wouldn't recommend avoiding it. I would, however, say that if you find nothing better on Netflix and want to enjoy a nice Horror film - The 3rd Eye could do the trick. As long as you initially lower your expectations and realize that you aren't about to see anything remotely innovative or exciting.
Not terrible in and of itself, a disastrous downfall compared to the first two films.
I knew it, I just knew it. After two excellent films with the sequel slightly outdoing the first - what were the odds of the third not being an utter disappointment? Slim to none, if experience serves. And so it was. Sabrina is not a bad Horror film, I would say it's even above average, it simply doesn't remotely meet the standards of the two previous titles (i.e. The Doll and The Doll 2). I hoped it would, I really did want to continue the blissfully terrifying journey, but all good things must come to an end.
From a pseudo-academic perspectives - Sabrina's main feature is that it combines, burnishes, enhances and conveniently presents all the aspects that served to slightly downgrade the first two films, so it's quite easy for one to understand what went slightly wrong in them and terribly wrong in this one. First, the illogical and unrealistic features, i.e. mortal injuries shrugged off as if they were nothing more than stepping on a Lego piece barefoot, or a character sleeping through a commotion in their bedroom but rudely awoken by noises from a different building. Second, something that had come to mind in the first two films but became too blunt in this one - the role of authorities. People injured and killed by supernatural events, and where is the police? We see the protagonists receiving medical care, but how come they aren't questioned as suspects? Seriously, this just might be cultural ignorance on my behalf, but is this how Indonesian social norms are? A simple "I am a psychic, officer, this person was killed by an evil spirit!" gets you off the hook? Seriously, is this how it is there? Such features really damage suspense of disbelief which is crucial in supernatural films (that are quite unbelievable to begin with).
To that I must add that while the acting in the two previous films hadn't been all that impressive - the acting in this one, namely by young Richelle Georgette Skornicki as little Vanya, was simply an eyesore. I realize she's a very young beginner and shouldn't be judged too harshly, and I also realize at least part of her unconvincing role is due to direction, but still, she was the one thing that felt fake and unfitting acting-wise.
Also, again unlike the first two films in the bluntest of ways, some scenes in Sabrina felt completely out of place. So out of place that it was embarrassing, honestly, I can't help but wonder what drove the director to add them. For instance - I'm very much not a fan of gore, especially when it is so obviously pushed into a film for its own sake. Sabrina actually had less scenes involving gore and ridiculously exaggerated amounts of blood - which only serves to emphasize the sheer redundancy of the one or two gory scenes. Almost like the film was done and ready and suddenly the director remembered "damn! I forgot to add gore! Quick, edit a scene!". Honestly, people who enjoy gore (completely legitimate, to each their own) wouldn't be satisfied which such a small amount and people who don't, like me, would simply be frustrated by such an unnecessary addition.
And finally - the plot twist. The one thing that to me makes good Horror films great and turns great Horror films into masterpieces. The first and second film had excellent, smart and sophisticated plot twists that I believe caught most of the audience completely off guard. This one? Couldn't have been more predictable. Honestly, anyone who saw at least one of the previous two films would know the "twist" 20 minutes into the film. This is perhaps the most felt downgrade from the other films.
However, to be fair, as I've said so in the beginning - Sabrina is not a bad film. For instance, certain changes from the second film are actually explained, instead of leaving it to the obvious to fill in the gaps (an all too familiar method in cinema today and since ever, unfortunately). Also, the doll itself is much better than the one in the second film, and even the fact that it bares the same name is explained in a satisfying enough manner. The story is compelling, the scenes are suspenseful, the antagonist is terrifying and presented in quite an innovative and original way compared to most other films involving possessions. Also, just like in the previous two films - exorcisms are done in a manner unfamiliar to most of us, meaning not in the Christian way (no criticism or offense meant to Christians or Christianity). After hundreds of films using the sorely overdone Latin catchphrases and "the power of Christ compels you", it was blissfully refreshing to see a Muslim exorcism! While this has been a feature of all three films and can't be considered a distinct advantage of this one - it was still, as said, refreshing to see.
All in all, Sabrina is quite entertaining and enjoyable, particularly for viewers who haven't seen the previous two films. Most of my criticism is due to the sheer disappointment due to Sabrina's overall low level in comparison. I would recommend watching it if you indeed saw the two others (for closure's sake, albeit an unfulfilling one), as well as if you've seen a trailer and found yourself intrigued. Or simply if you're a fan of creepy dolls. While I'm glad to have watched it - I would recommend to everyone to lower their expectations if they don't wish to feel their time has been wasted for naught.
The Doll 2 (2017)
Excellent! Better than the first.
I set out to watch The Doll 2 with certain worries, mainly that it would follow the unfortunate and all too familiar tradition of Horror sequels that (a) are barely remotely connected to the first title and (b) are nothing but a greedy attempt to capitalize on its success. My, was I blissfully wrong! The Doll 2 does follow in the footsteps of other sequels, but not of the Hollywood persuasion, but of Asian Horror (meaning the sequel is just as great as the first if not better). First review I've seen here offered what was in my opinion very unfair criticism, lamenting how The Doll 2 was simply "more of the same". Indeed, it follows the general rules set by the first film, as a sequel ought to. That's not criticism, that's praise.
Much like the classic sequels of old (the Friday the 13th anthology comes to mind) The Doll 2 picks up right about where the first film ended. None of that "different story, different characters, different everything possible, same antagonist" equation defining most of today's Horror sequels - but an actual sequel the way it should be. The relevant characters (and cast!) of the first film appear in this one and play a significant role, but without overshadowing the new and more central protagonists. The story, plot and especially pace are also much like in the first film. Very little room to breathe as one occasion is rapidly followed by another, without wasting any screen time and without a single dull moment. In fact, I actually believe a little more build-up could have served the plot well, but the story and pace are great nonetheless. Seeing an almost two hour film and thinking "it could have been longer and still excellent" is in my opinion quite a complement.
And of course, the plot twist. I'm a sucker for plot twists, I believe they are the one thing that makes good Horror films great. But they have to be smart, surprising yet authentic and not forced and of course they have to make sense. Just like in the first film - the plot twist in this one meets all the criteria. While not as shocking and mind-blowing as in the first - it catches the audience (at least most of it) completely off guard and takes the plot to a whole new level. Well done!
Finally, the last nail in the coffin of the "more of the same" criticism - the last third of the film completely changes the rules of endeavor. The film is an emotional rollercoaster of empathy and contempt, fear and relieve, love and hate and discomfort and catharsis. While the first film was indeed great - it didn't offer these features and in such a professional and intelligent manner. Undoubtedly the one reason to prefer the sequel.
Now, to be fair, the less impressive parts. First of all, while the doll itself is quite disturbing, I still haven't decided if it's as creepy as the one in the first film. I'm actually not sure if I like it more, less or the same. To each their own, I suppose. Second, and indeed "more of the same" - an exaggerated use of blood and completely, utterly and to me annoyingly unnecessary gore scenes. I know the axiom is that Horror needs some gore, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Third, I found certain scenes to be, well, not in line with the film's general mood and simply too banal (although just one or two while the rest are right on the spot).
And finally, the bane of the first film - the blunt and ridiculous lack of basic logic just for the sake of serving the plot. People suffering deadly injuries only to shake them off and carry on as if they've received a mere papercut. I of course realize the problem with such criticism in a Supernatural Horror film - but these films too follow a set of rules which each film sets from the start. The supernatural aspects revolve around the doll and the haunting, not the characters' constitution. I realize the necessity of showing the characters getting physically hurt, but some balance was in order and things should have been made to make more sense. When you see some of the injuries you'll realize that no broken bones and not even the slightest effect of such amounts of blood loss are simply too fat fetched. Additionally, a person naturally sleeping through loud noises in their room but being awoken by screams from next door is simply preposterous. All this wasn't in any way nearly enough to spoil the film for me, it just felt silly, I can't understand why such foolishness found its way into such a great film...
All in all, I personally enjoyed and even loved 99% of what The Doll 2 has shown me on screen and taken me through, despite the aformentioned criticism. The first film was great and this one is even better. I of course describe my personal experience alone and can in no way know what other viewers' personal preferences are - you might just hate this film and curse me for encouraging you to watch it. But I do so nonetheless. It's an amazing piece of Indonesian Horror and one of the finest Horror films of this decade. Watch the first, then watch this one and join me in hoping that the third is just as good!
The Doll (2016)
Terrifying story, creepy doll, great plot twist, an excellent Horror tale.
With the exclusion of Chucky, I've always found tales revolving around creepy possessed/supernatural dolls to be quite scary, be it in text or on the screen. Dead Silence by James Wan (the Wan and only) is one of my favorites and the famous namesake of Anabelle was in my opinion the best and most horrifying feature of the film. Therefore, after the Netflix buzz around the new Sabrina film, I was quite excited that the first two titles were also available, so I could watch them in proper order.
The vast majority of features in The Doll are truly great. The story is interesting, compelling and suspenseful. The pace is right on the spot from the exposition and build up, through the overture and to excellent final plot twist (which succeeded in catching me completely off guard despite it being rather cliché). The antagonist is terrifying despite rather sloppy CGI (which is only apparent enough to be noticeable during the final scenes). The scenes are well made and compelling. The characters are authentic, realistic and relatable and the acting is professional and on the spot despite being less than impressive. Even the soundtrack is awesome.
On the other hand, I couldn't ignore the less enjoyable features, especially the vast amounts of all too familiar clichés, some of which had been specifically taken from the "The Conjuring" anthology. Additionally, there's the exaggerated use of cheap jump scares, despite the fact that they were well executed and absolutely achieved their goal of making me jump in my seat. Also, I personally found the gory parts to be completely unnecessary, not being a fan of gore and excessive amounts of blood for their own sakes. Some films are based on those features and are made specifically for fans of gore, but this one isn't and has absolutely no reason to attempt to be. However, the worst feature of the film is by far the complete lack of logic and realism in some of the scenes, all for the sake of fitting the plot. Like a guy suffering multiple deadly stab wounds only to shake it off when necessary, then collapsing exhausted when the plot needs him to. A very amateurish feature in a film that's otherwise anything but.
All in all, The Doll is an excellent film which for me delivered everything I hoped it would, and then some. While not a masterpiece it's good enough to be considered great and one of the best Horror films I've watched this year (and by far the best Indonesian Horror film I've watched to date, though I haven't watched that many). I can only hope the next two titles of the trilogy are as entertaining and terrifying.
The Rezort (2015)
Great story, lousy production, good film!
Oftentimes the experience of trying the sad selection Netflix offers under the Horror tag is less then rewarding to say the least. Fortunately for me - The Rezort was not one of those times, far from it. While a relatively low budget production, in my opinion what it lacks in grandeur it more than makes up for in an original plot and an innovating story. Personally, I have never seen such a take on the whole Zombie Apocalypse scenario therefore found The Rezort to be both refreshing and very entertaining.
More than a mere Zombie flick, this film is a human document. Unlike most other films of the sort the plot occurs well after the all too familiar plague of living dead biting people and turning them. It actually follows humanity's war against the undead and deals with the aftermath of the victory. Also unlike the scenarios often presented in such films - humanity has actually done quite well for itself in terms of survival, as "only" two billion people died and the plague has indeed been contained and all but exterminated. Moreover, the remaining zombies now inhabit a tourist attraction offering people a hunting safari experience shooting undead for their pleasure.
Indeed a human document, particularly human stupidity. The very existence of such a "rezort" is an affront to basic intelligence, showing just how dumb people could really be. Not just because the place was allowed to exist to begin with - but because it's shown as a prosperous business and people actually pay for it. Adding to that the fact that just like the joke shared via online dank memes there are indeed zombie rights activists (I kid you not) only stresses the implied social criticism, although not in the most obvious of ways.
The one problem I had with this film was certain aspects of the writing and direction. First of all, I do like it when the zombies are portrayed in a convincing manner, like possessing the ability to both walk and run (many films have them capable of only one of these basic motoric actions). However, also like most other films, zombies can't help but growl and be continuously noisy. So how come they still manage to literally sneak up on people? How could the director miss that? No explanation.
Also, I can't help but wonder what happened to all the cellphones, especially those coming with a basic flashlight option (i.e. all of them, every single type by every single manufacturer). I only wonder because during certain scenes the protagonists had to wonder around in total darkness. While I do realize the production needed darkness as an excuse to fake an implied fear factor - I do believe they could have taken the 5 seconds on screen to tell us an explanation (like "no cells allowed on the premises" due to any reason at all). That too would have been rather cheap, but at least acceptable.
And finally, of course, the all too familiar cheat of the car that suddenly won't start, because if it did the protagonists wouldn't have had to face certain death. It's not that the zombies attacked and made reaching the car impossible, or hung on to the doors and made the driver crash, or any other overused scenario. The car simply doesn't start, because. I can't help but be all the more frustrated on account of such screw-ups given how easily they could have been avoided.
Having said that, I still feel the Rezort was one of the better Zombie films of the past years. While not at all a Horror film and having only few impressive scenes, the story, the pace and the sort-of twist make the entire experience rewarding and entertaining. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the genre, as I honestly believe its good features far outnumber and outweigh any and all reasons to complain.
Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)
The very defibition of an okay Zombie flick.
First thing's first - I did not know this was a remake. Perhaps it means unforgivable ignorance on my behalf, but I simply looked a nice film on Netflix and came across this. Trailer seemed okay, so I figured, what the heck? This means that perhaps my opinion would have been more harsh had I had the whole "I must compare this to the original and deduct one point for each and every difference" thing going. I honestly don't understand why people do that to themselves.
So, Bloodline was to me like a Friday night family dinner. It isn't made by a chef, it isn't a taste-bud orgasm and it might even not contain your favorite childhood dish. It's just nice. The film is a regular Zombie flick with a nice story and a main plotline which I haven't seen done so far (again, this is a remake, so I guess any compliments belong there and not here). The acting is good enough for the overall level of the film. I personally dislike the amounts of blood and gore (zombies tearing out bits of flesh don't impress me, simply looks like an unrewarding and unnecessary way to spend a budget, sorry) but I suppose a Zombie flick trying to be classic needs some of that.
All in all? I had fun. I was entertained. I wasn't swept off my feet or had my mind blown, I simply enjoyed the dynamics between the characters and the overall post-apocalyptic battle scenario. I'm sure you could find better Zombie flicks, as well as worse. Nothing much left to say, as for better or worse the film doesn't leave a lasting impression. Watching it won't be as painful as others here say, so watch a trailer and decide for yourselves.
You Will Love Me (2013)
I know Netflix's Horror selection is pathetic, but watch something else. Trust me.
As I find myself unable to figure out where or how to begin, I'll start off by saying that this just might be the first time a Horror film receives a fair rating on IMDB (as usually, for some reason, people who dislike Horror think giving it bad reviews says something positive or flattering about them). This film is downright terrible, with perhaps four scenes that are not boring, badly written/acted/directed and worthy of screen time.
Of course, most people have only come across this atrocity due to Netflix, where it's called "American Poltergeist 2" (despite having been released two years prior to the less than overwhelming American Poltergeist, so I have no idea how this even works). And of course, there's no ignoring the fact that it doesn't take more than a two minute "research" to realize that whatever "entity" the antagonist is - it's not a poltergeist.
The camera trembles too much. The acting is childish. The "twist" is so forced it's sad. But the first prize by far goes to the audio quality in like half the film. No, there is nothing wrong with your sound card, speakers, television set or whatever. The director has actually had the audacity to release this film in its current quality level (or lack thereof). I don't even think the overall product would have passed a freshman year cinema course, so even implying this is a film that belongs on a paid streaming service is an affront to basic intelligence. Whoever was responsible for putting this on Netflix should know that he single handedly cost them at least half a star of reputation.
Most Likely to Die (2015)
A Slasher, some nice features, nothing else.
I must say it's been a while since I've got to watch an actual who-done-it Slasher, so I'm quite glad I got around to trying Most Likely to Die. The key components, i.e. characters, relationships and social intrigues are all as cookie-cutter as can be, without even the slightest distinct effort to present something new. I get that, some films have no desire to reinvent the wheel and it's perfectly legitimate in such a classic sub-genre. Additionally, some of the all too familiar cheats are of course present and are quite significant for the plot to make the slightest sense (of course there's no cellular reception, has anyone ever seen an on-set slasher location in which basic communication devices actually worked? That would force the screenwriters to actually think!). On the other hand, this was perhaps the first time I've seen a Slasher film with an actually logical explanation for the car refusing to start in a desolate location, so at least there's that.
Speaking of the plot, it's nice, okay, sufficient and other such underwhelming adjectives. Sadly, the only real red herring and sort-of chance for a remotely surprising plot twist is proven innocent (thus removed from the equation) far too earl for my liking, so there isn't really a twist. The only reason the killer's identity could catch you off guard is that you didn't bet on the right horse, as there are no hints whatsoever, subtle or other. Nothing smart or well planned, nothing to leave you with any appreciation for the writing. Same goes for acting and direction. Seriously, you've just witnessed a gruesome death, how about a little more convincing scream and hysterics? You know, more so than when you break a nail...
Having said that, let's all take a moment to remember that this is a Slasher, not a psychological thriller. Not all films can (nor should) be Saw or Insidious (yes, I'm a big fan of the Wan and only). As a Slasher, Most Likely to Die has some very well planned killing scenes, and awesome and never before seen murder weapon, and a distinguished lack of forced pornography (some erotica though) and people dying solely on account of being stupid. Also, the killer is not given Jason super powers, is not walking faster than sprinting victims and it's implied he wouldn't be able to shrug off a bullet. All these features are indeed commendable.
All in all, anyone expecting a Slasher to be more than it is would surely be disappointed, and have no one but themselves to blame. Those who just expect a Slasher, offering some half-finished story and plenty of features bad enough to be sufficiently amusing, would surely be pleasantly surprised but at least a few scenes. I know I was and I know I had a pretty fun time watching this for the first and last time. NEVER believe any Horror film's rating on this site, as it appears to be a social or ego thing to trash them. Always assume the film would be two scores better than most ratings and reviews. Trust me, rating this film a 4 is nothing but juvenile.
The Maus (2017)
Nothing fancy, yet quite entertaining.
The Maus is one these films in which the location serves to create a meaningful part of the overall discomforting mood. As always, it comes with all sorts of supporting (or unsupportive from the protagonists' perspective) features, such as no cellular reception and a language barrier. While I'm not a fan of using these particular defining aspects, I must admit that including the female protagonist's obvious (and completely understandable) PTSD after surviving the Serbian cleansing of Bosnian Muslims added a lot of character and quality to the story.
The plot is quite simple to understand from the film's description (and from watching the first ten minutes). Selma (Alma Terzic) and her boyfriend Alex (August Wittgenstein) visit Bosnia and become stranded and lost in one of its vast forests, which happens to be riddled with unmarked mine fields. By chance they happen to meet two "local" Serbs, Vuk (Aleksandar Seksan) and Milos (Sanin Milavic), who offer to assist them. From that point - reality and paranoia become mixed and intertwined as Selma initially distrusts the two on account of their origin, seeing in them the same type of people who murdered her family during the war.
The acting is quite impressive (especially by Seksan and Milavic whose performance keeps the audience guessing as to their true intentions and nature and Selma's sanity) and the story progresses in a very compelling way. Each and every scene seems to have been meticulously chosen to serve the film's conclusion and final plot twist (which isn't brilliant but definitely serves as a fine and terrible closure). While in no way "fun" to watch - The Maus is pretty rewarding for Horror fans who enjoy being depressed by human nature and what we can at times bring ourselves to do to our fellow man.
All in all, The Maus is far from being a masterpiece and none of its features are delivered in an overly impressive manner. It's simple enough and does a pretty decent job in toying with the audience's thoughts and emotions (which I assume was the creators' initial goal). Nothing fancy, yet quite rewarding by its own right. I don't think it deserves the low rating and all the harsh criticism it has received here (now there's a surprise), but you could still find something better (or a lot worse) to watch.
Torture, gore, but so much more.
It's important to start off by saying that I am not, in any way, a fan of gore or torture porn. I fins these Horror sub-genres to be in very poor taste at best. I recognize zero cinematic or otherwise artistic value in blowing your arts and visual effects budget on blood, puss and other bodily fluids, or severed organs (particularly when I "get to" watch them actually being severed). I don't enjoy it and I try to avoid films flaunting the use of these features the way Hostel did. Still, after all the buzz, I simply had to check it out.
I'm writing this review after watching it for the second, and it seems I have forgotten pretty much everything but the main plot revolving around torture. Indeed, there are plenty of scenes I would have rather not watch, but let's give credit when it's due - Hostel is far from tasteless. The gory scenes are not just out there for no reason, but in order to present a realistic and believable human phenomenon as both the main fear factor and a pinch of social criticism. What keeps you afraid is not the use of cheap jump scares (blissfully absent in this film) nor the disgusting gore, it's how you relate to the characters and experience the fear of what's about to happen to them through their eyes and experiences. The build up towards the torture, as people are tied up and realize that every single type of pain is about to be inflicted and there's nothing they can do about it, received more screen time than the torture itself. The helplessness and terror are delivered professionally and amazingly.
On this note, the film is absolutely taken to the next level by Eli Roth's direction of the characters and the cast's ability to play the role in the most professional and impressive way possible. Jay Hernandez (Paxton) and Derek Richardson (Josh) played the terror of anticipating their impending torture in a manner that was terrifying and authentic, stressing what a raw deal they received in their casting in Suicide Squad and Dumb and Dumber respectively. Barbara Nedeljakova (Natalya) and Jana Kaderabkova (Svetlana) are so much more than eye candy (though admittedly not painful to look at to say the least) as the hostel's occupants, delivering their role in the most realistic manner imaginable. And to top it all - Rick Hoffman (American Client) and Petr Janis (German Surgeon) are as discomforting, terrifying and revolting as you'd expect, meeting every possible standard.
Originally, I rated Hostel a 5, due to being younger, less experienced and honestly less fair. It's improper to criticize a gore torture flick for showing gore and torture, I know that now. My new more appropriate rate is 7, meant to reflect the overall level of the film while accounting for what I found to be a wanting plot and an unfortunate lack of a final twist. Also, some of the scenes were simply too much and frankly unnecessary. If you're a fan of gore and torture porn - you're in for a real treat. If you're not - think hard before you decide to watch this, as it will take you places you might not have wanted to visit or experience.
The Babysitter (2017)
A silly fun comedy, very entertaining, don't expect "Horror".
It would be fair to say that I've never been a fan of Comedy Horror. In fact, if memory serves, this is the first time I find myself actually reviewing one. From my little experience, such films tend to either be parodies (pretty much a humorous mockery of Horror features, from actually impressive criticism such as Cabin in the Woods to sheer fun stupidity like Scary Movie) or simple comedies involving some allegedly R-Rated scenes (blood, gore, sometimes even the mere presence of a ghost/zombie/you name it is enough for the tag). The Babysitter is of the latter, and is definitely worth watching if you're looking for a few laughs.
I have to say I was deeply impressed with the acting, as the entire performed very professionally and right on the spot. An actor/actress's job is to play the role of the character created (or adapted) by the screenwriter/s according to instructions from the director, so regardless of the characters themselves (most of whom were far less than impressive) the cast have done very well in acting them out. I particularly refer, of course, to Samara Weaving the film's namesake. Looking at her (which is far from being an unpleasant experience in and of itself) might give the extremely wrong impression of an eye candy and nothing more. I actually feel bad writing this, and I found her acting to be profound. Same can be said for Emily Alyn Lind as Melanie, who was given very little screen time but still made quite an impression. Protagonist Judah Lewis was also great and to be honest I could go on with the rest of the cast, whose skills were, in my humble opinion, too good for such a deliberately low film.
The Babysitter is sort of a Home Alone meets Friday the 13th kind of film. It doesn't mean to offer any smart story, plot twist or intellectual contribution (and yet the personal development of the protagonist is quite touching in a way). It's meant to be a silly comedy, funny and entertaining. There's absolutely nothing about it to justify the "Horror" tag, besides the fact that blood is shown (a lot of which, a deliberate exaggeration that simply makes it all the more comic) and murder is involved. Watch, don't watch it, or watch a different comedy, you'd do alright either way. I personally enjoyed myself and wouldn't mind watching it again.
Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)
Unoriginal, lacks creativity, but one of the scarriest films I've ever watched.
I am mainly confused. While the exposition and framing story are quite original, the plot is anything but and is as cookie-cutter as they come. If you've ever watched a film about an Ouija board haunting then you already know exactly what's going to happen. You could even guess some of the characters without watching a trailer. No actual plot twist, nothing slightly innovative or smart about the turn of events, nothing but the same old features to which we've grown tiresomely accustomed. Then why, oh why, was this film so great and entertaining? I truly ask myself that.
Perhaps it was the absolutely terrifying manner in which the hauntings were portrayed and presented, both in means of visual effects and cinematography. Yes, there are some jump scares, but they are far from being the main fear factor, as the film is by far more terrifying than physiologically startling. Besides, there are chosen few films that succeed in utilizing jump-scares in a way that doesn't feel like a cheap cheat, and this one if absolutely one of the title at the top of that list.
Perhaps it was the profound acting, especially by young 11 year old Lulu Wilson as little Doris. Younger actors showing such talent always impress me, but watch out for this one, she has a very dark and horrifying future ahead of her. Besides, there's something about antagonist children that makes Horror films all the more terrifying, and while this feature is usually utilized in films portraying young sociopaths - a haunted little girl has been the stuff of nightmares ever since the classic The Exorcist. Annalise Basso was also excellent as Lina, this time given a far greater (and long overdue) role than in The Oculus. In general, acting is definitely one of the finer aspects of this film.
All in all? I had a great time, was kept compelled and at the edge of my seat and honestly finished watching a little frightened to go to sleep (keep in mind I'm a 33 year old man). I honestly believe more creativity and originality in terms of screen writing and story, and a good plot twist, would have made this film a solid 10. I know I shouldn't have enjoyed it that much, I know it's not as good as I made it sound here, but it's been a long time since a Horror film had succeeded in scaring me to such extents. I'd say watch it and judge for yourselves, never believe the critics, you might love the film even more than I did and you might hate it. Personally, I'd give it a try.
True to the source and a nostalgic treat for devout The Ring fans. More objective critics might very well be disappointed.
As you might know if you've had some experience with the Horror genre - there are roughly two types of sequels: the direct sequel, in which the plot focuses on the same main cast (and usually the same antagonist/s) as the previous film, attempting to portray a new story that still adheres to the ground rules and definitions initially set by it; and the indirect sequel, which in the Horror genre usually means a whole new cast and new characters facing the same familiar evil from the previous film. On certain rare occasions (like in The Conjuring anthology) we might see the same main characters dealing with new antagonists, but of the same general type as in previous films. Following a mediocre sequel of the first type (The Ring 2), Rings (or, in fact, The Ring 3) is of the second.
First thing I liked about the film was its utilization of basic logic, meaning that after enough people had died in seemingly unrelated scenarios with the sole common grounds being a certain videotape watched a week prior - some people have begun to catch up and realize that dismissing the whole thing as an urban legend or fairy tale might be at least slightly irrational. We've seen this before in some of the classics (namely the later Freddie and Jason) and even an actually worthy attempt (though not more) in The Bair Witch Project 2. This time, it's an academy professor conducting a secret unethical research in an attempt to present empirical evidence of the existence of Samara and her supernatural abilities using the Observer theory. Not bad.
Second thing I liked was that the film stayed loyal to all the aspects and features which had made the first film such a masterpiece (in my humble opinion of course). Mainly, the overall mood and ambiance, the cinematographic and audio-visual effects, even Bonnie Morgan from the second film as Samara, 12 years later. It really felt like watching a "The Ring" film, actually a lot more than the second film had.
As for some criticism - I've personally felt that the central plot twist towards the end (as well at the proceeding "mini twists") were too much of a homage to the first film, meaning that they were still effective (I for one was indeed fooled), but they made you face-palm and fully know that you should have seen this coming. That's a shame, as the moment a film utilizes such plot twists which fail to meet the necessary standards - the overall viewing experience suffers for it. Then again, we've seen similar shortcomings in other classics (like the original Asian "The Grudge" anthology which was still also a masterpiece in my opinion), so said viewing experience is far from lost.
Same criticism can be pointed towards the cast, in terms of characters, not acting (which I believe was good enough). With the sole exclusion of the boy from the frist and second film - same general characters with the same interactions and relationships (namely Matilda Lutz and Alex Roe as two lovers trying to save each other, and the group of inhabitants of a small remote town "touched" by Samara's influence). The main addition is the professor, who keeps you guessing in regards to the purity of his intentions not because of smart writing and direction - but because of actor Johnny Galecki. Perhaps it's just me, but his entire demeanor felt dubious. In me, he elicited distrust solely based on his body language and facial expressions, and even after watching I don't yet know if it was intentional. Perhaps the wrong actor for the role (which isn't to say his acting was off, not in the least), or perhaps I missed something.
Now, for the worst part. Samara. In my opinion one of the most terrifying Horror characters in history. I actually know someone (an adult) who can't hear the phrase "seven days" without having nightmares. Everything about her in the first film (and part of the second) was everything that makes a supernatural antagonist truly horrifying, terrifying and the defining feature of the film. In Rings, she gets less screen time than the weather. I can't help but grab my head in frustration and cry out "Why?!". You have one of the best characters in Horror (and I'm sure the absolute best in the opinions of some), and you barely even use her?! What was this, some sort of drunken challenge? "I dare you to make a good Ring movie with only 60 seconds of Samara"? Who in their right minds would want to do such a thing? Honestly, I try and I try to put myself in the place of the screenwriter and director, I try to understand and deduce a single worthy reason for such an atrocity and I fail.
However, all in all, Rings was extremely entertaining, compelling and suspenseful, though not as purely horrifying as the first. It's one of the better Horror sequels I've ever watched and I firmly believe any fans of the original film would find watching it a very rewarding experience, if only for nostalgia's sake. It's far from great and doesn't really live up to the first, but I actually believe I'd enjoy watching it again, despite knowing the twists and ending, and that's a pretty big compliment in my book. I rate it a solid 7, even if it deserved less both as a Horror film and as a Ring sequel, because in all honesty I had a great time. Maybe it's because of the 16 year old teenager in me who still remembers the effect of the first film back in 2002.
Definitely recommended, just bare in mind this could have been a solid 10 film. Unfortunate.
I'd like to start off by saying that most of what this review is about to be is a statement of the obvious. Therefore, it starts with me stating the obvious and recommending that while you do take what myself and others have to say to your attention (as it's obviously of some interest to you or wouldn't have been reading this now) you shouldn't let any review, be it negative or positive, deter you from giving Split a fair chance. I'm about to dish out some criticism which might even exceed the compliments, and I still urge you to watch it. It's worth that if not more.
So first of all, like previous titles (namely 6 Souls / Shelter, which is pretty decent by its own right and also worth watching) Split not only fails in offering an even remotely accurate account of Dissociative Identity Disorder (NOT the same as Split Personality, by the way) - but obviously doesn't even try. Not to mention it's another one of these films in which the actual fear factor staying with the viewers weeks after is their ignorance of mental illnesses and their fear of the unfamiliar sadly translated to stigma. I am far from being a "woke" activist, but come on, at least try to get with the times, or at least not to make things worse for those battling psychological disorders.
Second, directly related to the aforementioned is the blunt use of pseudo-science (and I use the term loosely as there is hardly anything scientific about the portrayal of DID in the film). Using ignorance in order to present disinformation that ends up being perceived as disturbing and even terrifying only on account of said ignorance is not "cheating", it's simply a little cheap. And speaking of cheap - how could I ignore the plot twist and ending? Imagine somebody is asked to prepare a meat dinner. The guests arrive, the aroma surrounding the dining area is exquisite, and the host presents their creation - hamburgers. The ending of Split is equivalent to that scenario, in which the agreed upon rules have not been broken per se - only taken too literally and used to exploit an obvious loophole of which the decent thing would have been to ignore or at least overlook. The shift in definitions in order to fake a twist and the 10 seconds guest appearance in order to justify it are just like a hamburger diner - undoubtedly satisfying, even good, but cheap.
Which brings me to the acting. If anyone wasn't yet aware that antagonist James McAvoy is a superb actor, for instance if they missed on out on all the newer X-Men films, Split is absolutely a good way to become informed. He's professional, authentic and by all means a delight and the best feature of the film. Which is exactly the problem. Acting the role of different personalities (and operatively different people) residing inside the mind (and to all relevant extents body) of the same individual is really having to act the role of different characters, at times one after the other or even having a conversation with each other. McAvoy does that exquisitely, but simply not enough so. His impressive acting abilities only serve to emphasize this shortcoming, as it feels he's doing everything right yet still getting it wrong. I personally felt very aware that I was watching an act and completely lost all hopes of immersion (perhaps the most important component of a worthy viewing experience when it comes to Psychological Thrillers accidentally tagged by some as Horror). It didn't feel like different personalities in certain times, it felt like an actor failing to adopt the proper minute variations of body language, facial expressions and speech intonation. Very frustrating considering that after watching McAvoy's profound skills I simply feel this mission cannot be accomplished (I would be overjoyed to be proven wrong).
The rest of the cast, while not nearly as impressive as McAvoy, have also performed in a level worthy of commending, and still wanting. The incredible Anna Taylor-Joy who had been excellent in The VVitch was great in Split, delivering a very relatable portray of a teenager dealing with severe childhood trauma. And yet, while most "teenage girls" stereotypic characters tend to be stereotypically and quite annoyingly overdramatic - Casey is under-dramatic to a fault. I do believe direction to blame, but still, you can't show her obviously terrified and yet so preposterously calm. As for Betty Buckley as the conflicted psychiatrist - again, impressive, but not nearly charismatic enough to confidingly deliver the character of an experienced professional. Again, I can only blame direction for these two cases of botched acting, as the cast seemed more than capable to deliver a better performance by far.
Having said all that - none of this criticism is experienced over the surface while watching. Split is suspenseful, entertaining and smart and I personally had a great time watching it, as I would have a great time feasting on that hamburger dinner. The reason that I unfortunately had so much criticism was that Split could have, should have and would have been a masterpiece with better direction and just a little more effort by Master M. Night. It makes me personally sad to see such wasted potential and such a mediocre utilization of God given talent. And yet, I've enjoyed watching it and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to just about anyone.
This has unintentionally been my longest review as of yet. If you've read this far, thank you!
Don't Breathe (2016)
Cheap and unpolished, still suspenseful and entertaining.
For honesty and coherence's sake I'll start off by saying I gave Don't Breathe a 6 out of 10. It's compelling, keeps you on edge and at times truly shocking without allowing itself to be pulled into anything too cliché. Pretty much all the makings of a decent modern Horror film not dealing with the supernatural, definitely achieving its initially set goals both story-wise and cinema-wise.
Having said that, the film is (in my humble opinion of course, feel more than free to disagree) quite frankly cheap and enjoyable despite it, not due to it. First, the cheap psychological trick of presenting the villains (no, they are NOT anti-heroes, simply a bunch of misfit delinquents forming a street gang of egotistical spoiled brats) as the protagonists from the exposition to the very end. Three jerks who decide to break into a war veteran and bereaved father in order to rob him of his settlement funds (his sole livelihood), and the audience is coerced into sympathizing with them on account of the female coming from a messed up home with an abusing mother and the male being a slightly dorky "good guy" in love with her. The screen time they are given achieved the effect of making us (or me at least) secretly (or not quite so) root for them despite them being the obvious bad guys from the get go.
Second, the fear and shock factors are as cheap as they come. Jump scares as the only truly "frightening" feature. Dark secrets revealed which flip the script and imply that there are no good guys in this film (so much for the film avoiding clichés). And my favorite - the "antagonist" (again, a 50+ year old veteran protecting his house and wealth from a bunch of no good would be burglars) being a hybrid of Superman and God, easily able to overpower a youngster half his age and twice his size, survive two hammer swings hitting him straight on the back of the head and escape handcuffs. Perhaps this was a supernatural Horror film after all.
Third, the sheer stupidity of certain scenes for the sake of the plot instead of choosing one of a million other more authentic and realistic options. Like the war veteran suddenly losing his accuracy and missing the kid he tries stabbing with garden shears when he's literally on top of him, moments after he was able to track said kid using his hearing alone and hit him with a pistol bullet form the other end of the hall. The bullet of course didn't kill the kid, as that would have made far too much sense. That's not just foolish, it's cheating.
Yes, the film is fun to watch even if you aren't able to ignore all those blunt shortcomings. It's suspenseful and keeps you guessing and hoping. Some scenes are truly shocking regardless of being cheap and overall result is definitely worth watching. Just please don't be fooled by the relatively high score Don't Breathe has received here on IMDB (yes, that's pretty high, people here get a kick out of trashing excellent Horror films) and don't expect 2016's Horror masterpiece. Aside from the great acting nothing about this film should have been as it was, and it wouldn't have been all that challenging to make it better or at least less cheap.
Under the Shadow (2016)
Not a Horror film at all, but still excellent!
I fancy myself a devout Horror enthusiast, so I was very happy to expand my horizons by trying a Persian one. That, and the trailer and available description on Netflix intrigued me. While the scenario of "single parents attempting to protect child/children from malevolent supernatural entity" has been done often enough to become a cliché of sorts - it rarely gets boring (when executed right).
Unfortunately for me, Under The Shadow if far from meeting my personal standards of a Horror film, set by years of Hollywood conditioning as they may be. Aside from a few well-placed and finely utilized jump scares (which are still and forever will be a cheap trick and nothing more) and the presence of said malevolent supernatural entity - there is nothing scary about the film and hardly anything to justify its Horror tag. Now, keep in mind that besides jump scares I'm also not a fan of excessive blood, pointless gore of torture porn. I have quite typical demands from Horror films, mainly that they should invoke certain sensations of fear and discomfort. Under The Shadow does do that, but at the bare minimum level. Having a supernatural spirit as an ambiguous antagonist doesn't qualify as Horror more than "Casper the Friendly Ghost" does (a deliberate exaggeration of course).
Having said all that - Under the Shadow is an excellent film as a profound anthropological documentation of Persian culture and social patterns following the religious revolution and during the Iran-Iraq war. The presentation of the Djins, the conflicted woman of science and medicine forced to comply with primitive religious laws of female degradation and the neighborly cooperative coping with living under missile fire are all described and presented beautifully. The acting is superb by all characters, especially young Avin Manshadi (Dorsa) showing very impressive talent. As a cultural piece, Under The Shadow is a rare and remarkable gem.
All in all, I personally believe anyone watching this film in expectations or hopes of Horror would be quite disappointed. It would take active effort to feel any form of fear while watching, aside from the physiological forced reactions to startling jump scares. However, anyone looking for a compelling story of family, cultural society and life during war in the context of Iranian life would be greatly entertained. 9 for film, 3 for Horror, an overall average of 6 and an honest recommendation to forget about scares and simply have fun watching.
Too short, one of the best!
While found footage isn't on the top of my favorite Horror sub-genre, I've had the chance of watching and reviewing quite a few. Usually, I manage to enjoy the finer ones, the ones with a good story, relatable characters, professional acting and an overall compelling plot. Then again, I approach such films with lowered initial expectations, in hope of being pleasantly surprised. I've started watching Hungerford not expecting anything much and I can honestly and thankfully say it's been a long while since I've been so pleasantly surprised, so impressed by how great a film can be without being remotely innovative.
Those of you who have seen titles like Cloverfield would know what to expect. Frankly, Hungerford has enough Cloverfield features to be considered a knock off (and I say this without any criticism, it's just a fact). A group of friends, main protagonist in love with one of the girls, camera capturing everything for this reason or another, sudden attack by some half-unnatural half super-natural monster unleashes mayhem, shifting the plot towards a combined struggle of surviving and staying together. Cloverfiled was, in my opinion, excellent, and I'm quite tempted to say Hungerford is simply better. All the previously mentioned features are just as professionally and compellingly executed and portrayed or are simply better. The comradery, the romance, the narrow escapes, even the monsters all feel more realistic (as far as anything of the sorts can be considered theoretically realistic), making the entire experience feel all the more suspenseful.
Hungerford is not all that scary, it's simply real. The protagonists don't pick up some handy tools and start butchering monsters, nor are the monsters slow, clumsy and dumb. When threatened or caught the protagonist scream, whimper and beg, just as everyday youngsters would if confronted by such circumstances. There are no fantastic heroics and the only victory is to somehow survive, hopefully together. I've been through pretty much every emotional reaction while watching this, from laughter and sympathy to sadness and fear. I've tried to find reasons to offer constructive criticism, anything that could or should have been done better, and all I can think of is that it ended too soon (which isn't really criticism).
So that's my review. I find myself envious of anyone who'd be watching Hungerford for the first time. It's not a masterpiece, has no clever twists and very few original components, it's simply a profound film that keeps you on edge and fully entertained from pretty much five minutes in till the very end. I'm actually hoping for a sequel or even a full series. Very, very highly recommended! Please, ignore the outrageously unfair overall rating score here on IMDB and don't miss out on this. I was going to rate 8, but thanks to all the trolls rating 1 and 2 I'll have to try and balance it out, for justice's sake.
Tai hong (2010)
Half boring, half not Horror
While the description on Netflix might be misleading, Still is not an anthology. It's more like a somewhat anachronistic series of events which can be roughly divided into four different plots, half-conjoined during certain interactions. A nice and impressive feature is the way the ending of each plot leads to the beginning of the next one. Acting is also pretty decent. The rest is simply too comic to be scary and too weird to be a comedy. I can honestly find no more to say about it, other than there are more boring parts than interesting ones, the latter being mostly sentimental scenes. That about sums it up. Would not recoomed. One of the only times you'd find a Horror with an IMDB overall rating that's actually fair.
If you haven't watched it yet, don't.
So which do you want first? The vague plot portrayed in the most amateur of ways causing confusion not by sophistication, but by pure incoherence? The pitch black lighting forcing you to either stop and tweak your screen's brightness to never-before-necessary levels or simply not see anything? The screen time dedicated to anything and everything but the actual story, supposing this mess of allegedly consistent events can even be defined as one? Or perhaps the nothing short of foolish ending bluntly hammering that final nail into the film's coffin? I'd describe all in further detail had it been worth my time (or yours for that matter), but I feel after the two hours it took to watch this mixture of irrelevance and black screens that I have paid my dues.
There are some good parts, yes. Most notably before the actual film during the opening credits, which take about 20 seconds before the first actual footage. That's how it should be done, that's how you create immersion from the get go (if you put aside the fact that this isn't part of the actual film, which later deems this singular light spot redundant at best). Also, if you enjoy pointless blood and gore and a little torture porn for its own sake - you'll find some enjoyable scenes. I didn't.
I am not the least surprised that this is rated above 6 (very high for a Horror film on this site, as it seems certain people simply experience acute pleasure by rating Horror low for the heck of it), as that's just how IMDB goes. Horror gems are rated 4, and this is rated 6.3. Oh well, whatever rocks your bored infantile boat. As frustrated as I am by my wasted time, I still try to be a little fair. So a 3 instead of a 1. If you haven't watch this yet - just don't. If not for integrity I would have rated it 1 just in hopes of contributing to the effort to lower its preposterously high current rating.
Good enough to be good, not enough to be great
This has been my first experience with Indonesian horror, and while Kuntilanak is far from a masterpiece it made for quite an enjoyable watch. This is the sort of film for which one would have to lower their expectations and take the cultural differences into account. While obviously made for younger viewers (and yet containing certain features and scenes I personally wouldn't want my young ones to watch before their tweens) Kuntilanak has some pretty great qualities:
First, it feels like a nightmare, but an actual authentic one, "realistic", unlike many Hollywood attempts of portraying scenarios allegedly originating from nightmares that simply break immersion and suspense of disbelief.
Second, it takes normal everyday things from children's lives like a mischievous laughter and twists them, deforms them into a cacophony that combined with the dark eerie mood becomes truly terrifying.
Third, one would think the exaggerated comic reliefs presented by the children's infantile interactions with each other and with the other characters (made all the more apparent and dominant by changes in soundtrack and sound effects) would damage (if not completely ruin) the dark mood and fear factor, as well it should! But it somehow doesn't. On the contrary, it makes the following scary scenes that much more terrifying.
All in all, while I can't ignore the film's shortcomings (for instance, I went to sleep before the final 30 minutes and continues the next night, which isn't a very flattering thing to say about a film from the horror genre which is supposed to be suspenseful and compelling) I must admit that I enjoyed it quite a bit. Far from great, but definitely good (in my opinion) for anyone willing to momentarily change their standards and open their minds.
John Doe: Vigilante (2014)
What we need to see, what we need to know.
Usually, a film is (and is to be) judged, critiqued and rated by its contents, its key features and components like plot, story, screenplay, characters, script, acting, direction, cinematography, lighting, etc. After all, cinema is a form of art, a medium of portrayal and should be appreciated as such, for better or for worse. However, on some rare occasions a film emerges that is so profound, so awe inspiring and simply inspiring, so relatable in manners so groundbreaking, that the only right thing is to throw all conventions out the window, along with the rulebook. John Doe: Vigilante is one such film, which in my opinion has had such a unique and tremendous impact that it simply doesn't matter that (again, in my opinion) the acting is profound, the story and plot are almost non-existent, the cinematography is a clever and educated play of first and third person combing mockumentary and suspense, and the moral is complex enough to justify an academic philosophical, legal and social-cultural debate.
Joh Doe is far from being the first character on big screen to take matters into their own hands (The Punisher comes to mind quite naturally). However, Doe is not a former spec-ops soldier or state field agent. He doesn't have military training and he sure as hell doesn't have any super-powers (even compelling charisma is only human). He isn't without flaws and his "master plan" has a gigantic hole in it, making him all the more human, vulnerable and relatable. He says what every single person in the world has felt in their life and does what every single person has wanted to do, if only once, if only for a short moment.
I can't watch this film too many times, I can't even watch it enough. It is an exquisite criticism of the modern legal, justice and penal system, of western society and of each and every one us, while simultaneously being a distinct reminder of the assumed harsh consequences of all possible alternatives. What is right? What is the verdict? Who is the bad guy? These questions will trouble you, make you think until your head hurts, and you'll enjoy every moment.
Die Präsenz (2014)
Average. Not bad but not remotely impressive.
I'm very much in favor of sampling new cinema of one's favorite genre, as I believe titles from outside of the cookie-cutter Hollywood industry often bring splendid innovations to the table. While I've always found it slightly more difficult to connect with foreign language films - such are often a very rewarding experience. No Horror enthusiast requires such a reminder, considering the numerous excellent titles from Asia. I have also seen some European foreign Horror films that were excellent. So I figured sampling a Horror film from Germany would be beneficial, won't it?
Sadly, "The Presence" brings nothing new nor the least innovative to the all too familiar field of found-footage ghost stories. It's more of an unimpressive mix and match puzzle of a haunting poltergeist and a pseudo-"documentary" crew of youngsters. Even the plot development, mainly featuring the change of attitudes among the three protagonists (sceptics become horrified believers, scientific become obsessed and blind to reality, etc. etc.) has been done before. Some of the cinematography is quite impressive and contributes much to the overall atmosphere, but not enough to redeem this film from its mediocrity. The best feature of this title, in my opinion, is by far the castle itself, both as a filming location and as the place of the plot's occurrences. While being the perfect setting for the story, I couldn't help but finding it too unrealistic and overly "convenient", as such perfectly suitable locations for hauntings and the documenting of supernatural events belong more in urban legends than a film requiring such an ectensive proportion of suspense of disbelief from its audience.
Finally, a few words about the ending, without giving away any spoilers of course. I feel that a Horror film's ending is one of its most critical features which has an extreme effect and influence on the film as a whole. A good ending with a smart plot twist which leaves just the right amount of questions unanswered can turn an average Horror film into a great one, and vice versa of course. The ending of "The Presence" felt like a direct continuation of its mediocre parts so far, leaving some room for guessing but not being interesting enough so as to elicit curiosity or any actual will to "find out what really happened".
It would be fair to say that I'm not exactly a fan of found-footage films. However, I have seen plenty enough titles of the sort to be able to judge more or less objectively (as much as an individual's critique of a film can be objective), some of which were excellent, some disappointing and others average at best. "The Presence" is one of the latter, so I'd only recommend it to Horror fans who indeed enjoy found-footage and are not expecting anything different than the "Paranormal Activity" anthology or even the classic Blair Witch. While I didn't find myself bored or uninterested throughout the film - I was from captivated or in any was emotionally involved.
The Shallows (2016)
Excellent acting, unrealistically ineffective shark, good story, fun film.
When I decided to watch this, I hadn't expected a Horror film (not that The Shallows really fits the genre, but it's close enough). In this regard, I was in for a pleasant surprise, kind of. The protagonist's desperation is very efficiently portrayed, as well as her genuine (and completely justified) fear for her life. The fact that the antagonist is not an evil murderer or a supernatural being of sorts but a terrifying predator did not, in my opinion, make the ordeal less authentic Horror-wise. I believe this film could be enjoyable for anyone who's a fan of similar titles like Anaconda or the classic Jaws.
I chose to start off with these statements because most reviews I've seen so far really let The Shallows have it, trashing it like it was a complete waste of time. While I can't help but fully understand their attitude, I don't support it... I personally has a good (if far from great) time watching it and honestly believe anyone not specifically looking for reasons to be completely disappointed - in fact won't be. Why? Here are a few of my personal reasons:
1) When I first laid eyes on Blake Lively (protagonist Nancy) I thought "great, another good for nothing Hollywood eye candy". I am not too proud to admit it's been long since I've been so wrong. I found her acting is authentic, compelling and absolutely exquisite, taking the entire film to higher levels. You could criticize almost every aspect of The Shallows and I would find it perfectly legitimate (if not always relatable), but not Lively's acting.
2) The ocean shots are beautiful. Feels a bit like a cheap cheat meant to distract us from plot holes and other such mistakes, but wow.
3) I personally liked the story. All parts seem to connect and it does keep you on edge, even during the less action-packed scenes.
Okay, now that I've paid my proper respects, let's talk about the less flattering bits, starting with the shark. Now, I am not a marine biologist or even a devout fan of nature documentaries, but I know enough to know when a predator is "nerfed". Quite early in the film Nancy suffers a crippling injury due to a shark bite to her leg, but the wound looks a little more troubling than a paper cut. That's it. This is not a baby piranha, this is a white shark. It doesn't "miss" and it doesn't deal flesh wounds. On the off chance that its bite doesn't immediately kill - it dismembers limbs as easily as a knife cuts through jelly. Maintaining suspense of disbelief after such a mockery of trivial knowledge is possible, but extremely challenging, and who would want to make an effort in order to enjoy a movie??? The shark continues to be ridiculously ineffective throughout the rest of the story, to a point of stupidity. While the story is compelling and suspenseful enough to distract you of this fact, there was never, not once, a time when Nancy was out of its range or in any way safe, and yet it doesn't attack. Why? Because we have a movie to shoot, so let's ignore everything we know about sharks...
Second, of course, is the almost grotesque bit with a wounded seagull keeping Nancy company (again, let's forget what we know, this time about birds). Without giving away any spolers, I'm not sure if the writers were attempting a wink at Castaway's "Wilson", but that's all it felt like... "She's wounded and stranded, let's add a strange bedfellow". Nothing short of comic, really not what you want in a movie meant to cause suspense and discomfort.
All in all, like I've said, there is a fair amount of good bits making The Shallows a fun and rewarding viewing experience, but only if you're able to ignore the annoyingly unrealistic parts. While I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see the relatively high rating, I can't in good conscience give it more than a 6, most of which is due to Lively's acting and the fact that I did enjoy myself. Lower your expectations - and I believe you'll enjoy yourselves too.