Shocking Saturday: The Conjuring

The truth based story of the Warren’s most horrifying case makes for a thrilling film, that brought box office selling ghost stories to the big screen once again.

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In 1971 the Perron family have moved into a new home in Rhode Island to make a fresh start, however after revealing the boarded up cellar, eerie occurrences begin to happen in the house. Such as: the dog barking wildly, unexplained smells and noises in the house and of course one of their daughters being dragged out of bed. The family seek the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) – who are regarded as the most famous paranormal investigators in the world – to look at their home and deal with the problem. However once Lorraine, who is also a medium, enters the home she senses something much darker at play than just a normal haunting. The evil twisted past of this dilapidated house is beginning to come to life once more, and it plans to destroy the Perron family from the inside.

One of the first things you notice when watching The Conjuring is the money and ideas that have gone into it. Although they are basing on what happened in 1971, the scares and creepy atmosphere that the director James Wan, who is also famous for the Saw franchise and Insidious, creates is one that I have not witnessed from a horror in quite a while.

It’s not only the creepiness that won me over, but also the climax. A lot of horrors are able to create that feeling of unease in us, and they usually do it by not showing us the antagonist until the very end of the film. When we do see it, the CGI created beings usually ruin the rest of the film; for example in White Noise. However The Conjuring keeps you gripped to the screen throughout the entire running time, and at the conclusion you don’t want it to end.

You know how in a horror film there tends to be that one character that just gets on your nerves, it could be the typical dumb blond or the screaming child – although the War of the Worlds remake is not a horror, Dakota Fanning’s character was just unbearable. Well I could not find one fault in the portrayals in this film, yes there were parts were I was thinking ‘why are you looking in the cellar?’ But the actual characters were very likeable, even with 5 young children, and therefore you weren’t rooting for them to be killed, you actually wanted this family to survive the terrors. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga definitely stole the show, as the ghost hunters who were both fully in belief of the supernatural, but were also sceptical when going into a case. That characteristic alone made them one of the most enjoyable things about the film, as they didn’t go into an investigation instantly believing there was paranormal phenomenon involved.

The back story for this film is just so interesting – depending on what type of films you like. But I find it great when you can view a film and then look it up afterwards and discover new things about the story; and The Conjuring is one of those films. As it is based on Ed and Lorraine Warren – the two most famous paranormal investigators – it tries to put as many of their famous encounters into the film as possible, including the infamous ‘Annabelle’ doll case and the Amityville case. We get to take a look inside all of their hauntings and adventures when the film shows the room in their house where they keep all the cursed objects from their travels. If you research about the Warrens and watch the film again, you are bound to spot one or two familiar items. Things like this show that the writers – Chad and Carey Hayes – have thoroughly done their research for the film.

One of the best horrors I have seen in a while, not one that has just been churned out with the same story line. It’s got a great back story, impressive portrayals by Wilson and Farmiga, scares when you least expect them and the thing which always gets me going, an eerie feeling that grabs tight of you and just will not let go.

The Conjuring 2 is set for release in 2015 and a spin-off film about the haunting Annabelle doll titled ‘Annabelle’ is set to be released later this year.

Tag Line: Based On The True Case Files Of The Warrens.

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

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Shocking Saturday: Girls Against Boys

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and when there is two in the mix all hell will break loose.

We have all seen one of these types of films before such as The Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave: some wrong is done to a woman – unfortunately it’s usually sexual assault – and they then go on a rampage to find, torture and kill the culprit. Girls Against Boys however puts a slight spin to the plot, by adding another revenge-fuelled woman into the mix.

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What started for Shae (Danielle Panabaker) as a well planned out weekend in the Hamptons with her boyfriend actually begins with an unexpected breakup, followed by a crazy night out that ends in her assault, meeting along the way a female work colleague named Lu (Nicole LaLiberte), who will forever change her life.

After said assault happens, Lu attempts to help Shae by taking her to the police station. But after no proper help is given and with revenge on Shae’s mind the duo decide to take matters into their own hands. By using various violent forms of negotiation Shae begins a mission to get back at every man who has wronged her; however she may have jumped into the killer lifestyle without asking herself if this is what she really wants to do…something which Lu confirmed to herself a long time ago.

As Shae and Lu indulge in their crusade to rid the world of the filth that is the male gender, they sort of come across as a modern-day Thelma and Louise, but with a lot more killing. Even as a man it is great to see a film about women’s empowerment against the people who think they are superior, mainly because the audience can envision any minority in today’s society and put them in that role. To see a minority – be that homosexuals, ethnic minorities, women – which is looked down upon on a daily basis give the powers that hold them down a taste of their own medicine really gets your blood pumping, as you are rooting for the violent protagonist.

There was a danger at one point of the film losing its moral point in the way that the ‘heroes’ may have just started killing men willy-nilly, but thankfully that does not happen in a way that would have ruined the film – and one that I can’t really explain as it would ruin part of the picture.

Panabaker and LaLiberte play off each other so well throughout the film; we first meet them as colleagues and friends turned murderers, but by the end of the film they become enemies with their different views on the acts they are committing. What was also great about these two talented actresses was how different both characters actually were, even though at one point in the film they both lusted after the same objective. Whereas Lu has always had this opinion on those that have done her wrong, Shae was simply thrust into it by a terrible event, and was blinded by Lu’s talks of retribution. As the film progresses we see both characters’ true colours, as Shae’s humanity begins to sink in, Lu’s insanity flourishes and we see how determined she really is.

I truly was impressed with Girls Against Boys; it took a typical film plot and added a slight twist that changed the entire notion of the film. Also both portrayals by the leading ladies pulled you in; whilst you were constantly rooting for Shae to get even, on the sidelines you were also enjoying hating her murdering mate.

Tag Line: Bad Girls Don’t Cry. They Get Even.

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

Star Rating:

 ☆☆☆☆

REC 4: Apocalypse Trailer

Without a doubt the Spanish REC franchise is one of the best that has been in the horror genre in recent years; and it seems ages since the slightly less enjoyable third installment, REC 3: Genesis, came out. So for those of you, like me, waiting on the news front for something on part 4, prepare to get excited because the official trailer for REC 4: Apocalypse has now been released.

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Juame Balaguero (REC/REC 2) is back in the director’s chair again to helm the film, and the story line – to the joy of most fans – is going to stick more to what we saw in the first two films. The plot is set after the second, once again Manuela Velasco is reprising her role as the TV reporter Angela as she has just been evacuated out of the building where the first two films took place. From the trailer all we can really tell at the moment is that it is primarily based on a ship, and just when they thought the virus was contained, all hell breaks loose once again.

I for one am extremely excited for part 4, as the REC series ticks all of the boxes on my horror film list: hand-held camera, great effects, big scares and zombies (sort of). Hopefully with Balaguero back behind the lens REC 4: Apocalypse should be a great addition to the franchise.

REC 4: Apocalypse is set for cinema release on 31st October 2014 in Spain; the release date for the UK is not yet known.

Shocking Saturday: Grave Encounters

The found-footage 2011 cult horror by The Vicious Brothers lives up to the hype, and offers much more than your typical hand-held camera film.

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Lance Preston is the host of his own paranormal investigation series, and for the sixth episode of the first series him and his crew decide to visit the Riverview Mental Asylum, which is said to have been the source of many ghostly happenings. The team decide to have themselves locked inside the asylum all night until 6am when the caretaker will come let them out. The persona that the team play out on camera is much different to their actual take on the situation, as they believe that they aren’t going to get anything on film. However as the night goes on the asylum seems to come to life, along with its deceased detainees; and the crews persona eventually becomes one…fear. With ghouls and demons chasing them at every corner, they have much more to worry about than just surviving until 6am.

The first thing that I noticed about Grave Encounters was that, even before any of the scares had started, I was enjoying the film. It is a great success when a film from this genre can achieve that, without even needing to use any of their effects. As the film went on it just got better and better, the plot kept you guessing as you tried to work out what was going on just like the characters in the film. Plus, even though we aren’t able to get too in touch with the cast, you still relate to them because they are quite comical in the way they do certain things before they enter the asylum; although you aren’t dying for them to make it out, you certainly do sympathise with them.

The effects and prolonged creepiness are definitely what steal the show here. It’s the not knowing when something is going to pop up when the camera pans around, and the jump-scares that don’t happen when expected but still scare you any way that keep the film going. The casts witty and friendly characteristics force you to put yourself in their positions; imagine stumbling around an abandoned haunted prison in the pitch black on your own; doesn’t sound like something I would want to be doing.

What Grave Encounters really does well is how it keeps you interested in the film, and it does that by swaying from the typical scares and plot of a found-footage horror film. Along with the expected jump-scares that don’t happen, the documentary style photos which were found after the events and the imaginative story, the movie also does something which we barely ever see in horror films these days; and that is keeping the majority of the cast alive for over half of the film. By doing this the audience are able to continue to get in touch with the entire cast, and not, for example, get annoyed by a single cast member who might be the only one left alive.

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Although at some points the acting is slightly wooden, the film gets away with it because of the way that it keeps you watching, all the way up to the end.

A sequel to Grave Encounters was made in 2012 called ‘Grave Encounters 2’, and is about a fan who is so obsessed with the film that he wants to make his own version in the same place. Unfortunately for him it turns out that the film is actually real. The sequel was rather good, however it was let down in the fact that it makes the story too unrealistic. I know it is obviously made up, but where the first film played on your imagination so much and gave you a feeling of claustrophobia, the second tries to achieve this as well but goes so over the top with it.

One of the best found-footage films I have seen in a long time, with some great effects and an atmosphere that will stop you from ever wanted to go explore an abandoned Mental Asylum.

Tag Line: They Were Searching For Proof…They Found It.

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

Star Rating:

The Green Inferno New Trailer

Finally we have a short trailer for Eli Roth’s upcoming cannibal horror film ‘The Green Inferno’.

Eli Roth’s horror career has definitely has its ups and downs, with his magnificent ‘Hostel’ franchise and the poor ‘The Last Exorcism’ film. Now it seems about time for Mr. Roth to deliver another enjoyable splatter-fest; and that will hopefully be in the form of his upcoming cannibal film.

green i

Due to the anticipation that this movie is gaining, the release of a trailer should get fans even more excited. However I found that the recently released 1:13 long trailer failed to dazzle; although the scene that we were looking at seemed like a good one, that was all that was shown in the trailer. Just one scene, where we couldn’t actually view what was happening. The plot entails a group who crash-land and are kidnapped by the very tribes they were trying to protect; I just wish it would have shown some form of that story in the trailer because it sounds so good.

Saying that, it didn’t make me think any different about the film, so at least nothing was ruined. Stepping away from the bad, what I did enjoy was one part of the trailer, when a fact shows up on the screen about the tribes people in the film. Apparently they are an actual native tribe from Peru, who have never been filmed before. Luckily that little bit of info was at the of the trailer, so it concluded on a high note.

The Green Inferno is out 5th September (USA)/Not Yet Known (UK)

Shocking Saturday: V/H/S 2

The thrilling V/H/S anthology franchise returns with a sequel that surpasses its predecessor in quality and original ideas.

VHS2-Poster

Once again someone has been hired to break into a house that is littered with snowy television sets and stacks of VHS tapes; this time a private investigator and his girlfriend have been hired to find a missing college kid by his worried mother. As one of the two searches the house for clues, the other begins to watch the various tapes in a bid to find out what has happened. Unfortunately the tapes do not give any ideas, they just show stories of disturbing and violent footage shot by unknown people; each tape more terrifying than the last. Including footage of a haunting, a suicidal cult, zombies and an alien abduction. As the pair view more and more of the tapes it appears as though watching these may be what has caused the kid to disappear.

What jumps out at me about V/H/S 2 – as it did with the first one – are the original ideas that are just so gripping to watch. Each story is directed by a different person, meaning that each story has a different and fresh take on it; this helps to keep the audience watching in wonder at will come next. What has really been improved on from the original is the length of the video segments; whereas in the first it was five rather short stories that failed to explain their plots well, in the sequel it has been changed to four slightly longer stories that urge you to understand the subject matter more.

Every video tape is incredibly imaginative, the various directors (Adam Wingward, Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, Jason Eisener) have not just used a typical horror film narrative, they have added a different aspect to them. For example with the first segment ‘Phase 1: Clinical Trials’, in which a man is fitted with a new eye – that is also a camera –which makes him see dead people, it is not just another ‘The Eye’ film. In the short viewing I assure you that you will be more creeped out and shaken than throughout that entire Jessica Alba flick. Not only that, what the segment offers that is great is an amazing contrast between incredible state-of-the-art technology and simple practical make-up. The variation of these two things showed both ends of the horror time-line put together – the practical effects of the Hammer Horror classics, and the gadgets which are used in a large portion of today’s horror films.

Straight after experiencing the first segment it was obvious that this film was miles ahead of the original; I just hoped that it wouldn’t go downhill from there. It definitely didn’t as the second ‘A Ride In The Park’ took one of my favourite horror monsters – zombies – and span the idea on its head; as we are watching through the Go Pro camera of a recently joined member of the undead. Although the shortest of the videos, its compact size stopped the story, that we have seen many times before, from getting too monotonous.

The third segment ‘Safe Haven’ definitely steals the show, as it just had everything you could have asked for; a creepy vibe throughout, unlimited amounts of gore, an interesting plot and characters that you could get in touch with. The Indonesian based story follows a documentary crew who are filming at the location of a cult who believe they are heading for the gates of paradise, unfortunately the crew are there when they begin their journey…lets just say a lot of blood is spilt. This segment put V/H/S 2 at a much higher standard of horror.

The final tape ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’ is pretty self-explanatory from its title, and while it did not leave the film on a bad note, it did have a disappointing low-level of creepiness; something which really is needed in alien themed films.

Although I did really enjoy the first V/H/S film, what really let it down were the video tape segments that never really seemed to go anywhere and were over too quickly; therefore character development was not seen often. Also the shakiness of the hand-held camera was too much at times, I understand that the film makers were trying to make it as realistic as possible but it gets to a point where realism goes out the window, and the audience just can’t make out a single thing on-screen. It is only after viewing V/H/S 2 and re-watching V/H/S that I realised how bad the quality of the first film was, thankfully this, and much more, has been improved upon in the second film.

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As I have said many times when reviewing found-footage, it has been done to death now and directors need something new to offer their viewers. V/H/S 2 definitely ticks that box by using new technology such as Go Pros and spy cams throughout the film, perhaps to relate more with a 21st century audience. Something else I look for is the effects that are used on camera, unlike where V/H/S seemed to use gore a lot just to fill spaces in where the plot was lacking – gore for the sake of gore – the sequel gets exactly the right amount. When the effects are used they are incredible and very believable, however they are not over used at any point where they’re not needed.

To sum up V/H/S 2 was a definite step above the first film, and for any fans of found-footage or anthology films I would recommend this. It is one of the most enjoyable horror films that I have seen in a while.

Tag Line: Who’s Tracking You?

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

Star Rating: 

The Birds Remake

Another day, another silver-screen classic gets a remake.

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds is such an iconic movie for thriller and general film lovers alike. What an enjoyment it was to watch Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor and the people of Bodega Bay suddenly be attacked by flocks of birds. But it wasn’t just these attack scenes that made the film sensational, it Hitchcock’s classic touch of suspense and realism in the scenes that kept you gripped and watching the story – which was an adaptation of a Daphne Du Maurier novel.

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As you have probably guessed by now, this incredible film is receiving the remake treatment; and it is not just in talks, the production is in full swing with Platinum Dunes. Naomi Watts has been said to be taking the lead role with Dutch director Dierderik Van Rooijin at the helm, and Transformers director Michael Bay is in the role of producer.

Although I do think Naomi Watts could bring a great portrayal to the role of Melanie Daniels, it is hard to imagine how Van Rooijen and Bay expect to create the same edge-of-your-seat feeling that the original delivered – Bay probably hasn’t been told yet that the plot includes no explosions, car crashes, drug busts or shoot-outs.

If the remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1998 is anything to go by, then the soon to be remake of The Birds will surely fail to dazzle.

Shocking Saturday: Megan Is Missing

Let’s return to the found-footage genre with the 2011 film ‘Megan Is Missing’. A film that aims to shock and repulse, which, at times, it does; however it falls short due to a lack of acting from the majority of the cast and by turning into more of a documentary which is trying to promote a message.

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As you can most likely guess, the film is about a girl named Megan who goes missing. However before all that happens we are introduced to Megan and her best friend Amy, who have been friends for years. Although Megan is a very popular girl and Amy is right at the other end of the popularity spectrum, they still hang out all the time. That includes going to parties full of under-age drinking, drugs and sex – most of those by Megan not Amy. Despite loads of people telling Megan that she is too good to be friends with Amy, she takes no notice of them because they believe they’re going to be friends forever. Then the shit hits the fan after Megan begins to chat to a boy named Josh online whose web-cam has supposedly broken; and being a not-knowing-any-better 14-year-old she agrees to meet up with him. What follows afterwards shows a best friend’s determination to uncover what has happened to her friend. However when Amy goes looking for answers, the truth is much worse than she could have ever imagined…and her nightmare doesn’t stop there.

When I heard about Megan Is Missing I was rather excited to see it – and I’m glad that I did – however what I thought really let the film down in parts was the shoddy acting; mostly by Megan (Rachel Quinn). Don’t get me wrong the portrayal of the distraught Amy (Amber Perkins) was terrific, and anyone who has seen the film will know why. But it felt like that you didn’t really connect with the Megan character, she does attempt to tell stories of her troubled past, but the scenes are over so quickly that it hasn’t given time to set in. Don’t get me wrong, what happens to her in the film will definitely send a few shivers down your spine, but in a way it could have happened to anyone and the viewer would have felt the same. The fact that she was, in a way, the main character, didn’t make much of a difference.

What was great about the film was the way the found-footage technique was used. In the same way – but used so much better – that Paranormal Activity 4 tried to make it appeal to today’s audience, Megan Is Missing used cameras on things such as mobile phones and web-cams; in a way that made the story so much more believable, especially with the film being focused around youths. By using these types of video feed the audience is able to perceive a more realistic take on the hand-held camera genre.

What Megan Is Missing came across as more than anything was not a shocking film, but rather a wake up call to parents who allow their young children to live this lifestyle; and the behaviour of the kids just made it frustrating to watch. Now don’t get me wrong, nothing like this is deserved or anyone’s fault – apart from the antagonist – but it was hard to find sympathy for one half of the main cast because the film just shows how bad youth is today. Drinking, doing drugs, having sex and talking to strangers on the internet at 14…how can you not think that something will go wrong? Plus the fact that most of the characters are spoilt little high school brats who need a good kick up the arse in telling them that their lifestyle is terrible made it even harder to watch.

I would definitely recommend Megan Is Missing to any found-footage and horror fans, but be wary when watching…most of the cast are just unbearable. It can’t be a good thing when the best part of a film is what most people would call the worst.

Tag Line: Megan And Amy Are Best Friends. They Share Secrets. They Chat With Guys Online. And In A Few Days They Will Never Be Seen Again.

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

Star Rating: ☆☆

The Grudge Reboot

I remember when I first watched The Grudge, what I remember the most was the feeling it gave me that forced me to hide underneath my bed covers for about two weeks afterwards. The 2004 supernatural horror film which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar and was the American version of the ‘Ju-On: The Grudge’ Japanese horror franchise – both directed by Takashi Shimizu – never let up, and kept you guessing at where the next horrifying ghostly face would appear next. The plot was based around the murder of a family, who, after their death, held a terrible grudge that brought terror and death upon anyone who came into contact with the murder scene. Although it may have had more of an effect on me when I was younger, the film still stands strong in the horror genre today as it did on its release.

grudge

The Japanese version of the franchise is still on the go, however the American one stopped in 2009 with the third instalment which failed to dazzle audiences in the same way that the first and second did. So what is the answer to this? A reboot of course. I for one feel it is too early for an American remake of The Grudge, with the first only being released in 2004. But Hollywood seem persistent on remaking horror franchises and have thrown some big names behind the project.

As well the amazing Sam Raimi being attached and his Ghost House Pictures company, Jeff Bhuler – The Midnight Meat Train writer – is set on for writing the script for the film. There is no word on whether Takashi Shimizu is set to return to his franchise or what the actual story line is going to be. Our hope lay in the hands of the already busy scheduled Sam Raimi, among others.

Shocking Saturday: They Live

It’s been a while since I have done a Shocking Saturday, so what better way to return than with a cult classic. This week it’s John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror film ‘They Live’. It is a film that draws you in with its laughable 80s action movie acting, fight scenes and hairstyles, but keeps you gripped with a thought-provoking underlining story that will leave you questioning the world you live in.

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The film starts off by following Nada (Roddy Piper), an unemployed over-the-top muscle-bound man who is looking for a job in the city. After he gets a job on a construction site, Frank (Keith David), a fellow worker, leads him to a part of the city that offers food and shelter for homeless people. Now that Nada has got a job and sort of a place to stay it seems that he might be able to start a life for himself. However, after television sets begin to pick up a man raving about hidden signals, and Nada stumbles across a giant storage room where there should be a church, it appears that this little homeless community is planning for something big. At night riot police and bulldozers destroy the settlement, and any evidence that was it was ever there is lost, but Nada finds a box that they missed, a box full of glasses that when worn show the world for what it really is…a massive organisation based on consumerism. Nada finds it his goal to get to the bottom of this, and take out anyone who gets in his way.

The acting throughout the film is questionable at best, however what it lacks in acting the film makes up for ridiculous fight scenes; one of which goes on for almost 10 minutes. After all this is an 80s film, and a very typical one; filled with cheesy one-liners and glam-rock hair. But in a way that is what makes it so good, it is sort of a nostalgic film that offers what we see in most films from that period, don’t let that put you off though because the actual plot is quite original.

What first drew me in the watching They Live was that it was directed by John Carpenter, one of the great horror directors who has been scaring people since he released Halloween in 1978. Carpenter has some great films under his belt, such as The Thing and The Fog, and most know him for his horror films. However, like in They Live, he has delved in the sci-fi genre as well on many occasions with Escape From New York and Ghosts of Mars – with mixed results. Thankfully They Live is one that would be great in any John Carpenter fans collection, as, when viewing it, is so obviously one of his films. From the bass-lined score to the mysterious characters the film screams classic Carpenter.

What I have found best about Carpenter’s films is the score, on the majority of his films he has created the music himself; sometimes with a little help from others, but he always has his say. It is easy to see how much effort has gone into creating it, as with Halloween and The Thing, the soundtrack was one of the aspects that defined those movies and brought that level of creepiness to the screen. Although They Live is not a horror, the funky bass that carries the film along is one of the prime things that keeps you watching as it usually sets the tone for the scene to come. Although you may let out a chuckle when the sound goes from silence to the bass line, it by no means takes away the enjoyment of the film; if anything it adds more to it.

They live is a great 80s movie and a great John Carpenter film that deviates slightly from his usual genre, it will leave you wondering and laughing.

Tag Line: You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they’re people just like you. You’re wrong. Dead wrong.

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

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆