Sinister (Scott Derrickson 2012)

October 20, 2012

Welcome to Movies for Halloween Bonus Edition: Part 2: Return to Bonus edition. This Film is not on the list but I saw it in theaters this weekend and thought I’d write a review for it.

So it’s about 2 A.M. as I am writing this and I just got back from seeing the movie Sinister at the good ole cinema and it left quite an impression on me. First off this movie was pretty damn scary. It’s one of those movie that stay with you when the lights finally come back on at the end. You can always tell by that moment how good a movie was. The hair on the back of my neck was still standing up well into the parking lot.

This movie has a lot of typical annoying horror movie behavior but that can easily be forgiven. It usually is among the horror viewer. Not only does the main character like to investigate creepy shit and then find said creepy shit and never tell anyone about it, while he does it he never seems to want to turn on the lights while doing so. (who can blame him though electricity is fucking expensive these days) These extremely dark scenes really contribute to the atmosphere of the film. Much like in Neil Marshal’s The Descent but to a lesser extent. This film also has great cinematography while only serves to contribute to the sense of terror throughout the film. There is one scene in particular right when the shit starts to hit the fan so to speak that uses long steadicam shots following our main character down the hall ways of his pitch black house. I don’t wanna give this scene away but you will most likely know it when you see it. It is one of the more frightening scenes in the movie.

The plot is also just plain creepy and makes a shift from the natural to the supernatural in a way that I really enjoyed. I really didn’t know much about this movie going into it so I had no idea if it was going to be a supernatural horror or not. The plot is that of a washed up true crime novel author that is trying to recapture the success of a book he wrote a decade ago. He moves his family to a small town where the murder that is the subject of his next book took place. What he doesn’t tell his family is that the house that they are moving into is the very same house where the murder took place. He then finds a box of old 8mm home movie in the attic that depict graphic murders including the one that he is writing his book about. Instead of calling police to report the new evidence he decides to figure it all out himself because, hey it would make a great true crime book right? We then get to follow the main character on his investigation that becomes more and more disturbing as more information comes to light. We see him get consumed by the mystery and we are consumed right alone with him. The whole story also has a looming sense of doom to it. Through out the film you slowly realize that it is not going to end well for these characters and we can do nothing but watch it happen. It sort of reminds me of the novel The Ruins Scott Smith. (which is the shit. I highly recommend the book, the film adaptation sucks hard compared to the novel)

Another unique thing that I like about this film is that probably around 80% of all the scenes are just us watching the main character, played by Ethan Hawk, unraveling this disturbing web of murders. So much of the film rests on the ability of this one character to hold our attention and bring us along on the road to obsession. Ethan Hawk does a great job of this. You actually feel yourself being drawn into the whole mess just as much as he is. When he is investigating creepy shit going on in his house you feel like it is your own house and you are right along side of him.

This film also uses found footage sequences to terrifying effect but not completely relying on them like so many of the horror films today that they seem to make in some lame ass factory somewhere, probably in Utah. It’s has traditional story telling but uses found footage to enhance the story, which is great because it is really the best of both worlds. You get the really strong scares from the restricted narration of the found footage but you don’t have to sit through prolonged scenes using the technique that aren’t scary and do little to build tension. Lets be honest watching many found footage films these days is exhausting. Some scenes in the Paranormal Activity franchise have all the thrills of sitting and watching fucking surveillance footage from a bank or some equally boring shit.

All in all I thought this movie was great and it is money well spent to go see it in theaters, which is really the most exciting way to watch horror films provided you go when there aren’t too many goddamned teenagers screaming and making all kinds of noise because the consideration for fellow human beings part of their brain has yet to develop. Anyways that’s a whole other subject. Definitely see this movie. 8.5/10

-Danny


Black Sabbath (Mario Bava & Salvatore Billitteri. 1963)

October 20, 2012

Danny- We here at Off the Edge Productions love horror anthologies. We even have our very own horror anthology about 75% written and early reviews say it’s the greatest one ever made once it’s made. For those that don’t know what an anthology is, take a goddamn literature class. Just kidding. Anthologies are a single film made up of several independent stories. Many times each story is done by a different director, which are the coolest kinds in my humble opinion. Black Sabbath is an Italian Horror anthology from the early 60’s. A Black Sabbath is the day which Satanists perform the Black Mass which is a parody of the Catholic mass. It is traditionally done at 3:30 A.M. on Friday morning. The more you know.

And yes the English Rock band took their name from the English title of this film.

Of all the horror anthologies I have seen Black Sabbath is probably more toward the bottom of my list of favorites. That is not to say that it is bad there are just a lot of great horror anthologies out there. I really like the first two parts but felt the third part “the Wurdulack” I felt was too long and dragged. For some reason it was twice as long as the other two segments I wish they would have just shortened it and done a fourth segment.

The bottom line for this film is that time really wasn’t kind to it. It isn’t quite old enough to have the classic thing going for it and the atmosphere just isn’t there. I’m sure I would have loved it if I saw it in the 1960’s. If you are looking for a good Horror Anthology I would point you in the direction of Trick R’ Treat, Creepshow, Three Extremes or the greatest yet Off the Edge untitled Horror Anthology slated to be released sometime in the next decade.

I would recommend watching this film unless you can get a hold of the European version because not only is the version on Netflix the Censored American version and it is also overdubbed into English which fuckin sucks. 6/10

Joe- Like Danny said we both love horror anthologies and if you’re fiending for one look for Trick R Treat or the classic film Creepshow. And if you’re really, really desperate I guess you could watch Black Sabbath. This movie tells three different stories that involve ghosts and vampires. The film is Italian made, but the version we watched on Netflix is the American version which features less gore and subtle story alterations to get past American censors. Oh, and on top of all that it was dubbed. All of this definitely contributes to a less than satisfying viewing experience. The other problem I have with Black Sabbath is that it’s not really scary and it doesn’t have the atmosphere that early horror films had. It’s kind of a middle of the road experience where you can tell most of the twists and nothing is really shocking.

I think I might have really loved this movie if I was a 20 year old Italian kid in 1963…but I wasn’t. I would like to see the European version of this film uncut to see if it makes a difference, but as is Black Sabbath is an average film that does a decent job of holding your attention, but it doesn’t do much else.

5/10

Watch it and judge for yourself on Netflix: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Black_Sabbath/60001693?trkid=8379860


Insidious (2011. James Wan)

October 16, 2012

Danny-This my friends, is a film for sure. I had some reservations about watching this one because of things that I had heard about it. My sisters went to see it in theaters and they both said they hated it. Which normally shouldn’t mean anything because my family are Philistines for the most part when it comes to film. If I could only say one thing about this movie is that I thought it was scary as shit. Luckily I have a blog about movies so I can say a lot more. This first thing I noticed about this movie was the score. It is a throwback to the horror films of days past. It is heavy on squeaking strings which are extremely effective in a horror score. Interestingly enough I read an article about a scientific study of music and sound that said that the screeching sound actually stimulates the fear centers in our brain. This is because it mimics the sound of a person or animal in distress. (see: rabbit being slowly killed by a fox.) This score definitely does its job in creating a fearful atmosphere.

This movie can really be split into two different parts. The first 2/3’s of the movie are pretty conventional. Not to say it isn’t scary because it is. There are a ton of great visual scares in this part of the movie. The cool thing is that these scares defy the convention. I am a person that can 9 times outta 10 know which the direction the visual scare is coming from. This comes from years of seeing the same type of shot be set up in the same way. Insidious however is really hard to read in that way. This left me jumping out of my seat every few minutes. This movie has some of the most startling scares I have ever seen. The last time I had a start like that was during Canadian indie horror masterpiece End of the Line which almost made me drop my brand new laptop. The second part of this movie is when it gets well weird.

With out giving too much away the second part is a huge shift from convention. The second part of this movie was a lot like what you see when you take about 12 Benadryl at once. It is also not unlike many of my nightmares. When this shift happened I was left with the thought that I couldn’t believe that I was watching a mainstream horror film. It had the feel of something that you’d see in an Indie horror film. I hate to say this, but the reason you can tell the difference is because the vast majority of mainstream horror films are for lack of a better word dumb. They use the same old tired plots and scares over and over and the mainstream horror audience (teenage girls) eat the shit up. This is probably why a lot of people that typically go to see mainstream horror films (my sisters) hated it. It turns out this movie did start out as an Indie horror film and was picked up by the same people that did the exact same thing with Paranormal Activity. That really explains a lot.

All that being said I really recommend this film. Really good and really scary. I proudly give it a 9/10

Joe-Insidious is a really weird and off the wall movie. It’s scary, funny, and goes all over the place in the third act. Personally, I thought it was fantastic. Insidious opens in a very conventional way with a family moving into a new house that appears to be, and is, haunted. The family itself is a very normal, middle class family. Josh (Patrick Wilson) is a teacher and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) is a stay at home mom who looks after their two children, Dalton and Elise (Ty Simpkins and Lin Shaye). Strange things happen and Dalton ends up going into a sort of coma. No one can wake him up and no one is sure what is going on with him. The supernatural sightings and occurrences increase and finally the family gives up and moves into a different home. This is where the film really starts to have fun with horror conventions. One of the film’s taglines says, “it’s not the house that is haunted” and that’s true. It’s Dalton, the little boy, who is haunted.

This creates a whole sub-genre within the haunted house trope where they basically replace the house with a child. It’s a really creative little twist and it sets in motion the rest of the movie, which is really scary. The spirits/demons that haunt the boy vary in shape and appearance, but one thing is pretty much guaranteed…they’ll all scare you. From a little ghost boy who wants to play hide and seek all the way up to an evil demon who wants to devour the child’s soul. James Wan does a fantastic job at creating tension and surprising you with where the scare is gonna come from. One scene in particular nearly made me jump up out of my chair. The score, as Danny said, does a great job at creating this tension. It goes from shrill violin shrieks to subtle ambient movements, but both add to the atmosphere of the film in their own way. Which, by the way, Insidious nails. The atmosphere is all old school horror with lots of low key lighting, fog, and lots of shadows. Again, it adds so much to the film’s look.

I don’t want to give away anything about the final third of the film. Just know it’s gonna get crazy and go off the rails. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though. Insidious is a great, low budget horror film that will scare you and always keep you on your toes. Definitely give it a watch.

9/10

Watch it here on Netflix Instant Play. http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Insidious/70142542?trkid=2361637


The Innkeepers (2011 Ti West)

October 11, 2012

Welcome to Movies of Halloween BONUS edition. This movie wasn’t on the approved list of films we are watching for this month but I recently watched it for the second time and thought I’d start writing this review on my phone because its slow at work right now.

As you may know we here at Off the Edge Productions are pretty big fans of up and coming horror director Ti West. Both Joe and I loved The House of the Devil.  I wrote a rave review of it way back yonder in 2010. Check it out here. https://offtheedgeproductions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/movies-for-halloween-the-house-of-the-devil-2009/

As a huge fan of The House of the Devil I awaited patiently for his next film for what seemed like forever. It was really frustrating because when his subsequent film The Innkeepers came out it didn’t play anywhere in the Twin Cities so I had to wait for its release on DVD. It was a long time of hearing good things before I got to finally see it. I wasnt disappointed. although the Innkeepers probably isn’t as good as The House of the Devil it is plenty good and plenty scary.

The Innkeepers is the story of two people that work at an old allegedly haunted hotel that is slated to close. The Inn sees few visitors these days and the two employees spend their overnight shift doing paranormal investigations. One of the things that stands out about this movie is its use of sound in the beginning. For those of you who have never watched and episode of Ghost Hunters paranormal investigators do recording sessions to record voices of spirits that allegedly cannot be heard with the human ear. What the film does what is like a POV (point of view) narration but with sound. When characters put on the headphones of the recorder when hear what they hear rather than the sound that would be heard if you were standing next to the character. They let you know that they are using this technique by a scene where one character is talking to another and as they slip on the headphones we hear their voice be muffled. We know from that point on we hear what the character with the headphones is hearing. This makes for some really tense scenes listening to white noise for voices giving the atmosphere an extra injection of creepy.  West definitely knows his way around a horror film. He creates suspense, which is really lacking from horror films these days. He manages to another highly nuances horror film with a big payoff. The last 15 minute or so of this movie will really have your heart racing. Also John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats, one of the single greatest bands ever, loves the shit outta this movie if that sells it any further.

I highly recommend this film. Not only is it scary its quirky sarcastic lead characters are pretty funny. Both Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy do great. Also this film will make you fall in love with Sarah Paxton if you already weren’t. 8.75/10

Watch The Innkeepers on Netflix Instant Play Here. http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Innkeepers/70177630?trkid=2361637

-Danny


The Stuff (1985. Larry Cohen)

October 11, 2012

Danny-

The Stuff is a  B-Movie for the 1980’s that has since gained a cult following. This is one of those really outrageous horror comedies from the 80’s that I just love to watch. They may not have the best plot or acting, but they always have some cool old school gore effects and are just incredibly entertaining. Regardless if you find movies like this scary or not they are really fun to watch. My favorite of the gorefest horror comedies of the 80’s is probably Re-Animator, which I wrote a review for in a past movies for Halloween. Read it here if you feel so inclined. https://offtheedgeproductions.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/re-animator-1985/

The Stuff is about a mysterious white slime that oozes from the ground and is eventually marketed to the public as a new low calories dessert. The Stuff is marketed everywhere. It is almost like how you would see something like Coca Cola being advertised back in the day. The shit is everywhere. Throughout the movie you see tons of different advertisements. We see television ads, billboards, merchandise, radio ads. The public is just inundated with the Stuff. The problem with The Stuff is that not only do people who eat it become hopelessly addicted to it, but it eventually begins to control your mind. There is one really funny scene where a man states that he feeds The Stuff to his dog, a huge Rottweiler, and the dog turns on him because he’s addicted to The Stuff. The way The Stuff is marketed is obviously a parody for conspicuous consumption as part of American culture, which was  at an all time high in the 1980’s. The Stuff itself can be an allegory for many things. I for one kind of thought it may be an allegory for the spread of conservatism the took over the country under Reagan. There are also obvious parallels between The Stuff and drugs and tobacco. There is one scene where two of the main characters are talking about how they marketed a product to people even though they knew it was addictive. There is a huge ad for Camel Cigarettes in the background of the shot. Subtlety.

Whatever the Allegory in The Stuff may be it is still a good movie and a really fun watch. Its funny and there are a lot of cool old school effects to be seen. 7.5/10

Joe-

The Stuff is a really fun, off the wall horror movie, that will have you checking the ingredients of whatever you eat for dinner next. We open with a shot of white goo oozing out of the earth in a snow filled valley. Several workers happen upon it and do what any sane person does when they are confronted by an unfamiliar object…they eat it. And of course, they love it. The film then jumps ahead and we get to the real meat, or Stuff, or the story. The film follows Michael Moriarty, (David ‘Mo’ Rutherford) who is a slick talking  former FBI agent, who gets hired by the failing ice cream industry to find and destroy The Stuff. And that’s about it. We follow Moriarty from the beginning to the end of his investigation and along the way we see some pretty messed up…stuff.

This movie is clearly an allegory for a consumer culture that will literally eat anything as long as it tastes and sounds good. The Stuff is advertised, as seen above, as having “no artificial ingredients”. However, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you as those who consume The Stuff become addicted to it and eventually rot from the inside out. I really like this movie because it walks a really fine line between horror and comedy. Some scenes are absolutely hilarious, while others feature some surprisingly well done practical effects  that show just how much damage The Stuff does to a person. Like Danny said, you can find numerous allegories for The Stuff in real life. This movie is also still very relevant as we still are a culture obsessed with consumption and cheap, good tasting food. The only problems I really had with the movie was that they introduce the origin of The Stuff too soon. I would have loved to go through the entire film never knowing what or where The Stuff came from until the end. Their is also a sub plot with a little boy who realizes The Stuff is bad for you that gets a little old after awhile. However…

The Stuff is funny, violent, and irreverent. It’s definitely worth a watch and is just a lot of fun. It’s message is also relevant and still great social commentary, even today.

8/10

Watch The Stuff here on Netflix instant play http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Stuff/60003172?trkid=2361637


Them (2006. David Moreau & Xavier Palud)

October 9, 2012

Joe-I normally am not a huge fan of PG-13 horror films. This is because the PG-13 rating is so constrictive and limiting. Language? Sex? Graphic violence? Not gonna happen. And lets be honest, those are the things that make horror films what they are, especially when the vast majority of horror films deal with teenagers or college students. The PG-13 rating also immediately lets you know what you will be seeing and what you will not be seeing as an audience member. You instantly think, “this movie is PG-13? Well we might hear one “F” word and maybe have a bit of nudity from the back. We also know that the violence is going to be mostly implied and not that graphic”. This takes away a lot of the horror because…horror films thrive on the unknown. They are at their best when the audience has no idea what they’re about to see and experience. The only real exception I’ve found to this rule is Drag Me to Hell by Sam Raimi, which I thought was hilarious, scary, tense, and brilliant. Anyways, the point of this is to say that Them (Ils) is a PG-13 French horror film that is the second exception to the PG-13 rule I’ve found.

Them opens with Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) driving back to her home out in the rural country where she lives with her boyfriend, Lucas (Michael Cohen), who is a writer. Things seem to be going perfectly fine for them and they seem to have a loving and good relationship. However, as soon as the lights go out things start to happen. Namely, their car is stolen and their house begins to come under assault by a group of figures wearing hoodies and making odd noises. Them is not a long movie, registering right around 77 minutes, but it feels like a long movie. It thrives by never revealing who is tormenting the couple until the end of the film and the horror comes from never knowing what’s around each corner. One scene in particular that takes place in the attic was so tense and thrilling that I was nearly holding my breath. The lead actors do a fantastic job, especially Olivia Bonamy, and really make you believe in what’s happening to them. It’s such a simple premise, but it’s something that could easily happen to anyone of us. One thing that made me love this movie is that it will separate the couple from one another and then only follow one of them. So all of a sudden you’ll be following Lucas around the house and the entire time you’re thinking, “ok, but what’s happening to Clementine”. It’s genius and makes things even more tense and nerve racking.

Them also benefits from the choice to shoot using very little artificial light and to make use of grain on the film. It creates this disturbing, gritty, and realistic portrayal of the events. Which, by the way, are based on a true story. My only problem with the film is that at times the characters do really dumb things, along with a couple of moments where really bad horror cliches come out. However, this does not derail the film by any means. Them is a great little horror film that should definitely be seen.

8/10

Danny- So again it has come to this,  a French film. I have a strange relationship with French cinema. It is polarized as shit every French language film I have ever seen I either love or hate. Also I have never seen a French horror film that I did not despise. I am pleased to report that this is the first one I did not despise and continuing my trend with French films I really liked it.

Though this is a French film it takes place in Romania. Romania is, for those of you that don’t know, is the Mordor of the real world. The crazy ass stories that come out of there are some of the basis horror in the western world like the vampire and werewolves. Interestingly enough the events that occur in the film are based on a true story. (totally cancelled the Off the Edge company vacation to Bucharest.) The plot of this film is really simple and with a runtime of 1 hour and 16 minutes it is short and sweet.

This is the story of a French couple that recently moved to Bucharest. The wife works as a French teacher at a French immersion school while the husband works at home as a writer. They have a huge old house out in the woods outside Bucharest that is unfinished in some parts. One night as they sleep they heard strange noises outside and thus begins the battle between the young couple and what are apparently Romania’s finest home invasion and murder team.

This relies heavily on atmosphere to creat an environment to fear and it works quite well. It makes good use of Point of View handheld camera as well as extremely low lit scenes.I really loved how the film uses restricted narration as we follow each member of the couple, as Joe mentioned earlier. Sound is also masterfully used to create terror.  This film is what other “home invasion” type horror films should be a horrible example that comes to mind is The Strangers. I definitely recommend this film especially for those that aren’t into the super graphic horror films. It definitely delivers enough scares with very minimal gore. It actually has a PG 13 rating which as Joe mentioned earlier is a pretty good indicator that a horror film usually sucks but this one is the exception. It also is only fair to mention that like most of the films we have discussed so far this year, this movie sports an extremely attractive female protagonist. She is sexy in a way that only European actresses can be. Honestly even if you think this movie sucks you will be happy you got to see this girl run around for an hour, provided you are into girls.

Also for those of you that detest foreign films because you hate reading, fear not. There is not a ton of dialogue in this film. For the most part you will forget that you are watching a foreign language film. Minimal reading required.

I’m going to start doing a rating system as well. I agree with Joe on    8/10

Watch Them right now on Netflix Instant Play. http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Them/70075470?trkid=2361637

I was gonna post a trailer on here but it gives away a lot of the good scares so d’fuck is the point.


The Wolf Man (1941. George Waggner)

October 7, 2012

Danny-

This is one of the films I chose because its one of the well-known horror classics and it bugged the shit out of me because I had never seen it. I really like the horror classics from the 30’s and 40’s. While today their terror value may not still be there for modern audiences people still love them because they have a very unique, macabre feel to them, that only golden age Hollywood could do. Films like Dracula (1931) Frankenstein (1931) and The Mummy (1932) established the monster movie genre along with The Wolf Man.

What I can say for this film is that it is definitely ground breaking. It is the earliest werewolf film (as far as I know feel free to correct me if I am wrong) and thus established the canon of the werewolf story, ie. full moon, wolfsbane, pentagrams, silver. It also has a really creepy atmosphere which I really liked. The scenes in the forest looked really great with their fog rolling along the sparse trees and low-key lighting. The scenes of the transformed Wolf Man marauding around the forest are among the most iconic of the film. Also lets not forget Claude Rains who is the shit and plays John Talbot the father of the character Larry Talbot which will who will inevitably become the Wolf Man. One of the biggest complaints I have about this film is Lon Chaney Jr. I don’t know if it is something that happened in the translation of me watching in the 21st century or it was always this way but I feel Chaney was a miscast. I don’t want to be speculative but his incredibly famous father silent horror films star that shares the same name might have something to do with it. I also don’t think its a coincidence He was credited as Lon Chaney sans the “Jr.”. It’s probably just the studio’s way of tricking the public into seeing the movie. I found Chaney to be incredibly off-putting. There are scenes where Chaney is trying to be suave and hit on a young lady which is fairly typical for films this era. These scenes are painfully awkward and to be honest downright creepy (he first sees the object of his advances through a telescope while she is in her room). To further drive home Chaney being out-of-place, Claude Rains is supposed to be his father. Not only do they not look anything like each other. All the scenes in were they are together Chaney just seems, for lack of a better word ……doofy. In fact Chaney is doofy in all of his scenes except the ones where he is the a werewolf.

All in all I’d say this is a pretty good film. It is probably my least favorite of the classic monster movies. If you chose to watch only one of these classic monster movies I would recommend choosing one of the others.

Joe-

The Wolf Man is a classic Universal horror film that, as Danny said, was very influential to the werewolf genre. Without this film we might not have Twilight as we know it today. Bella might have fallen in love with Frankenstein or the Mummy instead. Anyways, The Wolf Man is a good movie that is short and simple. Lon Chaney plays the titular character, a poor man who goes home to the family estate only to be bitten a werewolf gypsy. This movie screams atmosphere and even by today’s standards the scenes in the woods look absolutely phenomenal. The stark black and white color of the landscape, drenched in fog, is such a classic horror motif that looks wonderful here. As far as set design, atmosphere, and setting go The Wolf Man is fantastic.

However, my problem with the film lies with Lon Chaney and the story of his attempts to woo Jenny Williams (Fay Helm). Like Danny was saying, it just doesn’t work, and it comes off as forced and creepy. Especially because Lon Chaney looks at least a good 15-20 years older than her. None of the characters are remotely interesting either. I mean, compared to other works of the time it just comes off as a bit of a knockoff. You have the absolutely dynamite portrayal of Dracula by Bela Lugosi and the heartbreaking look at Frankenstein’s Monster by Boris Karloff and then…the sad sack guy who gets bit by a wolf starring Lon Chaney. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a classic film, but it relies much more heavily on atmosphere than plot or characterizations. I’m glad I watched it, but it’s definitely not gonna become a fall tradition to watch.

7/10

Watch the Wolf Man here on Netflix Instant Play http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Wolf_Man/21870598?trkid=2361637