Shocking Saturday: Stoker

Shocking Saturday this week is more of a thriller, however it is a visually beautiful film which takes you on a journey into the dark past of a broken family; and is from the mind of Chan-Wook Park, the director of ‘Oldboy’.

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Anyone thinking that this might be an account of the life of Bram Stoker will be saddened to hear that it is not; the title derives from the main family’s surname.

When the film started it seemed as though it might have been hard to get to grips with; due to the numerous scenes in the first 5-10 minutes where not much really happened. However the imaginatively scripted font-style used on the credits and the narration by the main character keeps you gripped and anxious to uncover what has happened to this family.

A mother – Evelyn Stoker – (Nicole Kidman) has been left broken after the death of her husband, Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney); and her already distant daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) pushes herself further away. This is partly due to the fact that she does not like to be touched, and that she was much closer with her father than her mother. After the funeral India discovers that she has an uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), who she has never heard of; on meeting him she can sense a feeling of unease. The feeling worsens when her mother invites Charlie to stay with them for a while, and while doing so he tries to get close to Evelyn and India; in some instances too close. Although this is the first time she has ever heard from her uncle, and the very sight of him gives her the shivers as the story unravels itself, it appears that India is much closer to Charlie than she thought.

Stoker is one of those films which – although they have a great plot – pull you in with the picture quality and visual effects. The story shows that India notices things that other people do not, and the film is the same; it focuses on the smaller details. Just as India would see people’s small characteristics the film details on such things as grass blowing in the wind, the brushing of someone’s hair and the spurting of blood from a severed artery.

The film is really stolen by the portrayal of the suave yet scary uncle Charlie, by the talented Matthew Goode; who is no stranger to playing the antagonist as we saw with him playing the super-villain Ozymandias in the 2009 film Watchmen. However not far behind is Mia Wasikowska’s India Stoker, who convinces the audience of her hatred for being touched by anyone, with her constant stern, emotionless facial expressions. Both Goode and Wasikowska’s acting plays off one another in order to get the emotions of the characters over to the viewer. The calmly creepy Charlie plays with India’s mind, and forces her to be seduced by his charms in ways he knows only she can understand.

Like I said before the first couple of scenes don’t appear to have much going on in them, but later on there are some excellent scenes. One of which is when India is playing a song on the piano, and Charlie appears and begins to join in. The scene is so enjoyable because the separate tunes which the characters are playing mimic their demeanour; whereas India plays high but slow-paced notes, Charlie plays dark low notes. As the scene concludes, the tension in the air erupts to a high which in some way simulates their sexual feelings towards one another.

Even with the slightly slow start, this film was very enjoyable and I would urge any horror/thriller fan to watch it.

Tag Line: Do Not Disturb This Family

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

 

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5 Horrors To Look For In 2014

What a great feeling it is when you pick up or hear about a new horror film, before you have even watched the film you get a slight rush of adrenaline at the thought of viewing it, because it might potentially terrify you. With that in mind there are a few horror films that I am looking forward to in 2014. New year, new scares.

The Green Inferno

How long has it been since we’ve had a great cannibal film; I know the zombie genre is booming at the moment, but I’m talking strictly people eating people, not the dead eating people. The last one I viewed was Welcome to the Jungle, although it had some shocks, it was nowhere near on par with such greats as Cannibal Holocaust. What terrifies me about cannibal films is that they are actual people, and somewhere is the world this could be happening. Hopefully The Green Inferno can bring back some of those scares. It is based around a group of college students who are attempting to help stop clear-cutting in the Peruvian jungle, however once their plane crashes and they try to take refuge with the very natives they were protecting, they find out that the tribe would rather eat them than be saved by them. Directed by Eli Roth, so the expectations are quite high.

Release date: September 5th 2014

Click here for trailer

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Cooties

The last horror-comedy which I viewed was Cockneys vs Zombies, and although it made for a laugh, it didn’t bring to the table the aspects of, say, Shaun of the Dead. Hopefully Cooties will, it is a new American horror-comedy starring Elijah Wood and Rainn Wilson in which the staff members of an elementary school must fight off their students after they are infected with an unknown virus which turns them into violent savages. I think this could be a great twist on the genre by having the killers being children, and that concept alone sounds quite amusing.

Release Date: October 10th 2014

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The Babadook

After the disappoint that was the 2005 film Boogeyman, it has been hard for me to get on board with another one of these types of films since. However The Babadook is looking to be quite the shocker from its trailer. What I like about films which focus on childhood nightmares and ghouls is that it can force you to revisit what scared you when you were younger and were trying to get to sleep at night. A mother is trying to come to terms with the death of her husband, and at the same time attempting to comfort her child with his fear of a monster lurking in the house. But as she also begins to feel the presence of an evil being, her son’s nightmares become all too real. From the mysterious being in the trailer I know that I would be terrified as a child, or even an adult, if I saw it.

Click here for trailer

Release Date: Not Yet Known

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REC 4: Apocalypse

The REC franchise is one of my favourite in the horror genre, and although I didn’t think that REC 3: Genesis was a complete bomb, it definitely was a lot weaker than it’s two amazing predecessors. Thankfully the fourth instalment is going to continue on the original story line more than the third did, and hopefully it will stick to just the hand-held camera rather than switching between the two. Juame Balaguero, who co-directed the first two, is back to deliver this Spanish horror flick which centres on Angela (who you will remember as the reporter who gets infected with a demon in the first two) who is rescued from the building and is taken away by soldiers to be examined; unbeknown to them she is still carrying the servant from hell inside her.

Release Date: Not Yet Known

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Tusk

Haley Joel Osment returns to the horror genre in Kevin Smith’s new film about a man who goes searching for his best friend in the backwoods of Canada. Although Smith has dipped his hands in various genres throughout his career, I didn’t think horror would be on that list. However from reading about the film’s plot and seeing images from it, it may not sound scary, but it certainly sounds like an interestingly original idea. It seems that Smith came up with the idea on one of his own podcasts, about a man who let someone live in his house rent free; so long as they dressed like a walrus. Justin Long and the southern-talking Micheal Parks are also set to star.

Release Date: Not Yet Known

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The Purge 2 is also set for release on July 2nd, however due to regrettably not viewing the first one I can’t place an opinion on whether I would be looking forward to it. But from the reviews I’ve read it would appear that the second is being made because the first was so successful.

Bring on the rest of 2014.

Goosebumps Feature Film

We all remember scaring ourselves when we were younger don’t we; you’d stay up past your bed time under the covers, and with the help of a torch you would scare yourself silly by reading a Goosebumps novel.

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I’m not going to talk too much more about the books because I have already done a post on them. However there is some great news for horror fans out there; you may have already heard that there is a Goosebumps movie in the works, but only recently has the news been broken that actor/musician Jack Black will be portraying the lead role for the film. This gets me really excited. To me the Goosebumps books were never just straight up horror, they had a certain colourfully-kooky quality to them, and I think Black will fit right in to that theme.

The plot for the untitled film will not come straight from one of R. L. Stine’s books, it is going to be based around a writer called Mr. Shivers who writes the same types of books as Stine; his creations are literally going to leap off the pages as they reap havoc and he has to hide from them. Can’t you just see it now, Jack Black playing a wacky horror author who must battle against his own marvellous monsters.

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The story is not going to focus on one monster from the Goosebumps books, but rather a whole handful of those creepy creatures which are getting set to scare Black Senseless.

The fact that it is going to be a bunch of Stine’s best creations has got me more excited.

Shocking Saturday: Chernobyl Diaries

By now you will probably have realised that I have a soft spot for the hand-held camera horror films; and although I will admit to enjoying the majority of them, I have seen my fair share of terrible ones. Chernobyl Diaries – although not technically a hand-held camera film – however, in my opinion, was not one of those terrible ones, it kept me gripped and watching like Alex DeLarge in the Ludovico Technique.

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As you can probably guess, the plot is based around the 1986 nuclear accident of the power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine. Based in modern-day, a group of six friends decide to do some extreme tourism; by booking a tour with ‘Uri’, who takes tourists around the town which was abandoned after the disaster. The place is creepy enough in the day, but as night falls, the group have more than just shadows to worry about. It appears that someone or something is not letting them leave, and they must attempt to stick together until the sun rises; all the while avoiding the clutches of whatever it is that is lurking and hunting them in the abandoned structures.

What I really enjoyed about this film is that I thought it, in a way, mirrors The Blair Witch Project; in the sense that the audience barely ever see what the antagonists actually look like, we only see snippets. As I have said before, the most powerful weapon at a horror film makers disposal is the audience’s own imagination. Yes we do have an idea of who the villains of the film are, but by partially hiding them in the shadows, the viewers are able to create their own interpretations of them. Meaning that the creepy atmosphere, which is present throughout, does not falter for the audience.

Although not actually a hand-held camera film, I thought that it came across as being filmed on that type of camera. Unlike a lot of horror films which shove everything right in your face, so that you do not miss anything. This film creates its creepy atmosphere in two ways; firstly in the way which I just spoke about, and secondly by adding it’s scares into the backgrounds – rather than the foregrounds – of scenes. For example, there are certain parts of the film that show things in the distance which only the audience see and not the characters. The movie does not use jump-scares for its full effect, rather it plays on what is going on off the screen to frighten its viewers.

Although I do congratulate the creators on using an original idea for their story line, I can certainly see where some of the controversy, which I have read about, has come from. After all, if you had family or friends who were affected by the events of Chernobyl, you probably would not be happy to hear that a film featuring the residents being turned into mutated killers had been made.

Oren Peli is once again behind another horror film – others include Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Bay and The Lords of Salem – which I have enjoyed. Although I think that he has gone off the rails slightly with the continuation of the Paranormal Activity franchise; The Bay and Paranormal Activity are still two films which I would recommend to anyone.

If you are a fan of Peli’s other movies and suspense-driven films, then Chernobyl Diaries is a must.

Tag Line: Ten Years Ago, The Ukrainian Government Let Tourists Visit The Area Around Chernobyl. They Said It Was Safe…It Wasn’t.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

Recognition of a Genre

We all know the feeling. You are sitting there, watching the television, and suddenly the hairs on your arm start to stand on end, and an explosive chill rushes up your spine. As you begin to grip the arms of your seat and clench your teeth, you wonder…why did I watch this film. The answer is simple, you watched it precisely for this feeling, for this exhilarating adrenaline rush that forces you to hide behind your cushion until it is over. This is the beauty of the horror genre

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I have recently been thinking about what the benefits of being a horror fan are. We obviously buy/watch horror films because that is the genre which we enjoy, but there is a difference between our films and massive blockbuster films. Whereas popular movies will have gone through the cinema and then landed on the DVD chart, only to stay on there for months on end at a ridiculous price. Although some are put onto the chart, a lot of horror films, especially low-budget ones, are straight-to-DVD films which you can pick up quite cheap. I know, and I’m speaking from experience, there are a lot of these films out there which are passable. But every now and then you will come across a little hidden gem, that you just happened to grab out of the £3 bargain bucket. It is in that moment, after you have viewed the film, that you realise the benefit of horror films. You’ve got an enjoyable film, and have saved a few quid.

Audiences might pass off horror films as being ridiculous and just made up of over-the-top gore, but in my opinion, horror films portray more truth than many other genres. Ruggero Deodato – director of Cannibal Holocaust – explained that the reason he makes films about things that aren’t nice is because he likes to make films about real life, and real life usually isn’t nice. People may try to bury their heads and look past the horrors of everyday life by watching more typically made happy-ever-after films. But the truth is the seedy underbelly of civilisation which is portrayed in horror films, is all too real, and we need to take it head on to get ourselves ready in case we are forced to experience it first hand.

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However where there are positive points about a certain subject, negative ones will surely be there too. There is a big concern that I have about the general public when it comes to horror films, and that is that a vast majority do not take the horror genre as a professional one; and this is from listening to people in person. The fury which boils under the surface is hard to contain when an audience just look at what is on the surface of a horror flick; the shaky camera or the cheesy acting. When will they learn that more often that not more hard work will go into creating one of these films; some of the costumes, make-up and scenery that I have seen – which have been made from scratch – are unbelievable, as oppose to some high-budget Hollywood blockbuster that sheds out a load of money for CGI.

Although a lot would complain that all they see is the typical horror storyline over and over again; and I’ll admit it has been done to death. But because the story line has been done over so many times, you are able to focus on other aspects of the films, such as the music, the effects and character development. Meaning that if the movies have an effect on you from these aspects, then the film makers have put in that extra bit of effort to ensure every characteristic of the film is up to scratch.

The horror fan base is still over-whelming, and I can’t see it decreasing any time soon; it’s just a pity that the genre has to be looked down upon from certain audiences who can’t open their minds to try to enjoy a different type of film. Like I said before, there are horror films in the chart every now and then, but that only ever seems to be movies which have starred big Hollywood actors. Such as Sinister; this film starred Ethan Hawke and to be fair it had a great plot and a great ending, but there have been so many horrors that have gone straight the DVD which would walk all over Sinister.

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I wrote this because as I strolled into HMV the other day to have a gander at the horror section, I noticed that it wasn’t where it normally was. No, it had been pushed aside to make room for a section called ‘General Interest’. I mean for god sake, surely those films would come under ‘Feature Films’; the section was barely full anyway, there was no need to move such classics as The Exorcist, Hellraiser and Rosemary’s Baby.

This may come across as me just having a rant about the fact that I think horror films are the best genre, that is far from the truth. I adore the majority of film genres, horror just needs the recognition it deserves.

Maybe they’ll be sorry that they didn’t watch them and learn how to fend off evil when the next person reads from the Necronomicon, and the Deadites rise. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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Shocking Saturday: Resident Evil: Retribution

The action-packed fifth edition to the video-game-themed Resident Evil film franchise sees protagonist Alice face off against, not only new enemies, but also old friends.

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Resident Evil: Retribution begins straight after where the previous film – Resident Evil: Afterlife – left off, with Alice (Milla Jovovich) and a group of survivors being attacked on the Arcadia ship. Alice has been captured by the Umbrella Corporation – who for some reason still want to conduct tests with the virus – who were led by the still brain-washed Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory); and is interrogated by them until a computer malfunction allows her to escape. It turns out that the previously villainous character Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) is now against Umbrella and needs Alice’s help to win the war against the undead in the outside world. So with the help of ex-Umbrella agent Ada Wong (Li Bingbing) Alice begins to make her way out of the Umbrella structure, on the way meeting up with an extraction team who have planted charges to destroy the base of operations. But this is a Resident Evil film, so obviously getting out is not going to be a walk in the park. The heroes go up against hoards of undead, giant Axemen, giant Uber-Lickers and trained Umbrella agents. This film basically gives everything from the previous films and adds more. Do not go thinking that this is just a typical Resident Evil film though, as there is a significant plot point which changes the entire idea of the franchise, quite a clever one actually. This twist makes it more imperative for Alice to destroy the Umbrella Corporation once and for all.

All of the previous films in the franchise have offered something slightly different. Resident Evil (2002), although loosely based on the video-games, was more of a straight up zombie-horror film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) carried on in sort of the same story line; as it was based in the undead over-run Raccoon City. However at the end of this sequel supernatural elements were added in. The lowest point in the franchise – in my opinion – was the third film Resident Evil: Extinction (2007). Although it explained more about the Umbrella Corporation and linked in better with the games. It just didn’t grip like the previous films. Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010) brought the enjoyment back by adding in more elements of the video-games and by adding exceptional action/fighting sequences. Resident Evil: Retribution took the same route and added an original plot twist.

Director Paul W. S. Anderson basically took what it was from the previous films that the audience enjoyed and then put it all together: rabid zombies, mutated monsters, action-packed fight sequences and returning characters from the other movies. Including: Rain (Michelle Rodriguez), Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr), Luther West (Boris Kudjoe) and James ‘One’ Shade (Colin Salmon). Unfortunately for Alice not all of her allies remember their friendship.

Milla Jovovich once again brings her great portrayal of Alice to the screen; it can be said that there is some shoddy acting in the film, but thanks to Jovovich’s role the movie stays together. With every addition to the series there are more and more aspects of the games being added, so hopefully the creators have learnt that this needs to continue with the sixth installment which is currently in the works.

There is always a chance with a horror series that spans five movies that the enjoyment can begin to fizzle out, and although it began to in the middle, it has definitely got its buzz back.

Not the best edition to the franchise, but certainly a great one.

Tag Line: Evil Goes Global.

Horror Rating: (:-O) (:-O)

Star Rating:

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (Trailer)

The news of a From Dusk Till Dawn TV series was broken some time ago, and had fans mystified by what the show would contain. Well now we have a trailer which appears to let out a few details of what the story will entail throughout the short mini-series.

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We already knew that the plot was going to follow the same story line as in the 1996 film – the Gekko brothers are on the run from the law and on their way to Mexico to meet their partner, they kidnap a family from a motel and then end up fighting off vampires in the Titty Twister bar until dawn. However from the trailer it appears that the creators are going to look more in-depth at the characters in the story, and also look at the back story of what happened to the Gecko brothers before they were on the lam.

I have read many opinions from fans about their thoughts on the show, some were for it, and some thought that it was just another way for Hollywood to make money. From the trailer the series does look like it may do the original film justice, however, when I watch it what is always going to be in the back of my mind is that; it was not written by Quentin Tarantino, it does not star Juliette Lewis, Harvey Keitel or Michael Parks and most importantly it does not star George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as the ruthless Gecko brothers. But the series has been directed by Robert Rodriguez who directed the film, so maybe I’m speaking too soon in saying that it will not live up to expectations.