Shocking Saturday: Insensibles (Painless)

Juan Carlos Medina’s French-Spanish mystery-horror takes the audience on a journey through history, with two stories that are both just as sorrowful as they are gripping.

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Insensibles begins with scenes on the brink of the Spanish civil war, various children who are unable to feel pain are rounded up and locked away in Catalonia for the safety of the people and also of themselves. Although incarcerated everyday, the children still show signs of intellect as a professor, Dr. Holzmann, attempts to teach them what pain is so that they do not have to spend the rest of their days locked up. At the same time we are shown a depiction of modern-day, and David, a brilliant neurosurgeon, has just survived a horrific car crash, unfortunately his wife did not. However that is not the worst of his problems as when he is checked over in the emergency room doctors find that he has cancer; and the only way to save his life is to have a bodily donation from one of his birth parents. When it turns out that David was adopted he goes on a mission to find out who his real parents were, various leads explain how they knew his father throughout history and what he became. David may find the answers he is looking for, but will he be happy with them and how do the painless children intertwine into his past.

The crossover storyline really weaves together very well as we dart back and forth between modern-day and the early 20th century. As the film plays out, the part of the plot which is set back in time shows the different war eras of Catalonia, firstly in the Spanish civil war, then in Hitler’s invasion in World War Two and through to the ’60s, we see how the painless children have to cope with these situations; it sort of gave off a darker Forrest Gump feeling with the travelling through history.

This is a film with some rather beautiful scenes at times which do not fail to dazzle, and as we follow David on his journey to discover who his birth parents were, the mood never changes to a dull one. The audience wants to unravel the mystery just as much as David does, and there are twists and turns around every corner that eventually end up with a conclusion. However it is these twists and turns which become the films downfall, they do entertain and make a more interesting story, but in parts it seems the script tries to be too clever in having the characters recite indecipherable messages which can not always be understood. Insensibles will definitely have you watching until the very end, it just needed more of an ending. Sometimes in films questions should be left open for the viewer to interpret themselves, but it is hard to make your own assessment when there seems to be information missing.

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In Insensibles Juan Carlos Medina delivers a violent tale of sorrow which is only let down in its confusing twists and ending.

Tag Line: Pain Is Their Remedy.

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

Star Rating: ☆☆☆

Shocking Saturday: Kairo (Pulse)

Japan is well-known for its creepy supernatural horror films, and one in particular that will have you running for the safety of your bed in the dark is the 2001 film Kairo.

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Kairo follows two different stories from the perspectives of citizens in Tokyo, whose lives begin to get entangled with a website that asks if you want to meet a ghost.
First we have three people whose friend has just committed suicide; they are anxious to find out the truth behind his sudden death, and a picture of him standing in his lounge with a ghostlike face in his computer screen only raises more questions.
Then we have Ryosuke who has recently bought a computer, for a reason which he really doesn’t know, and is introduced to the website unknowingly, which depicts people creepily standing, rolling and staring in front of their computers. His new friend Hurue is intrigued by it and asks to view it at his home – it all just seems like a harmless website until mass suicides begin to happen all over the city, figures appear to be there but really aren’t, black masses which whisper “help me” are stained to walls and why are there so many rooms being red taped shut all of a sudden?
The answer is much sinister than you could ever imagine. The ghouls are at work, and they have a plan for all of us.

The Japanese are well-known for their ghostly horror films such as Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge; they always seem to bring a feeling of unease with them, which has you squirming in your seat at the thought of watching any more of the movie. Kairo is no exception. Although it begins rather slowly, and the acting appears slightly amateurish at times, as the film progresses it sucks you in when you start to discover more about the mysterious occurrences.
At one point, when you first see a spectre, all seems fine, and then suddenly the light lowers and a spine-tingling high-pitched woman’s voice begins to sing over the top of the low-bass pulsing. It not only has the characters screaming on-screen, but also you screaming at them to get out of the room. The music is not the only aspect which creates an uncomfortable atmosphere; the ominous colour scheme that is used makes the audience feel just as dreary as the characters do, and the simple yet scary way that the ghosts are presented, with disturbing movements, adds another layer of discomfort to us.

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Although the main story line is that spirits are crossing back over into our world through means that we would never expect and are subjecting us to a torture worse than death, there is also a secondary storyline throughout film; Kairo tries to teach its audience about the dangers of being lost in technology, and it touches on the themes of being alienated and isolated due to the internet, and that we are never really connecting with each other through using it.

The 2006 American remake called Pulse and starring Kristen Bell and Ian Somerhalder, did bring the simple premise to the screen, however it was simply a horror film rather than one to make you question your time with technological devices.

Through Kairo director Kiyoshi Kurosawa brings a whole new terrifying concept to our thoughts about the afterlife.

Tag Line: Do You Want To Meet A Ghost?

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

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Shocking Saturday: Apocalyptic

Before watching Apocalyptic I was rather excited. Mainly because when reading about it, viewers had said that it was very similar to, arguably, the best segment in the entire V/H/S film franchise: ‘Safe Haven’, wherein a camera crew enter the temple of an Indonesian cult, and instead of filming an intriguing documentary they are left fighting for their lives. The idea of that story being made into a film, in my opinion, was such a great concept.

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The Australian film directed by Glenn Triggs starts off well, although it is yet another hand-held camera movie – the actors aren’t trying too hard to make it look realistic. It instead comes across, at the beginning, as a documentary about individuals trying to cope with their drug and alcohol problems.

This is where the story begins, as our protagonists Jodie and Kevin are allowed to record inside a help group meeting where they meet Bradley, a man who claims to have been living with a dangerous cult who follows the mysterious Michael Godson. Of course the idea of a cult living in the Australian Bush is a much more gripping story for this reporter and her cameraman, so they decide to follow the directions from their only lead.

Upon arriving at their destination they are greeted by two of the group’s members, a woman and a child, who lead them to their secret home in the woods. Although there is an eerie vibe surrounding the group, mainly because of the group’s creepy leader Michael Godson and the fact that there are no other men present, they don’t seem threatening. As the days go by, the group’s characteristics never falter, but various pieces of information about their overall plan is beginning to come to light, as things are discovered in the woods and the women talk about their plans for the approaching apocalypse.

The tall, strange leader appears to have such an influence over his followers that they will follow his every word. This at first does not seem so terrible, but steadily the group start to harm each other in horrific ways. As the final night approaches and Michael’s plans for his group are revealed, will the crew give in like the others or attempt to right the wrong which is being done here?

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Horror and thriller films which centre around cults are a great love of mine, mainly because it combines two of my greatest fears together; cults and small spaces. What films such as this do is create a feeling of claustrophobia within the audience, as we are, usually, taken into a compound that is cut off from the rest of the world and are surrounded by people who will do anything that their leader tells them. Therefore you feel trapped in this place, unable to leave, and just waiting for the followers to close in on you. Apocalyptic creates this feeling due to the film being set in the Australian woodland; the characters are cut off from the rest of the world, and the only people who can lead them to safety are the cult members.

While I am glad that I watched this film, it did slightly disappoint. It was not an awful film, but after being compared to Safe Haven of V/H/S 2 it seemed like it was missing so much. Maybe because it was compared with that film I had such high hopes, and when these were not met the film felt like it was lacking something. The plot was great, the characters kept you gripped, but then came the ending. It is an ending that seems to have really destroyed the found-footage horror genre; an unsatisfying one. I for one love this style of film, but over the past few years these types of film (Paranormal Activity/The Last Exorcism/The Devil Inside) have consistently created great build ups to displeasing conclusions, and you are left with quite a few questions that need answering.

Apocalyptic is no exception; throughout the film it draws you in to the mystery of what is really going on with this group, and then just when the horror kicks off it finishes, leaving lots of loose ends. One of which being why did these people follow Michael Godson – David Macrae gives a great portrayal of the leader, whose distinctive features only add more to this creepy character, however we are never really given a reason to how he has brainwashed his followers, and he does not come across as someone who has such a strong personality to make people believe whatever he comes out with.

This film is worth a watch, however do not go in to it with high hopes as it is more of a film to just pass the time.

Tag Line: Their World Will End.

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

Star Rating: ☆☆

Oculus: A Review

With the Oculus Rift making horror games so much scarier, it was only a matter of time before a film would be named after the Latin word for an eye-shaped opening.

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An original story-line in horror goes a long way these days, as the vast majority of films are just re-workings of existing plots, remakes, sequels or prequels. To be honest, from the trailer it seemed as though Oculus was going to fit right in as one of those films. But thankfully the trailer didn’t reveal much in terms of the story-line; so you had no idea what to expect. That unexpected feeling stays with you throughout the entire picture.

Oculus starts with a flash of the past, which depicts Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan, best known for Doctor Who) who are two young children, and are in a desperate attempt to escape from a man with a gun and what appears to be some form of supernatural being. Fast forward 11 years and it appears that the man was their father (Rory Cochrane), and due to their family possessing a mirror called ‘The Lasser Glass’, he was unknowingly forced into killing their mother (Katee Sackhoff). The tale doesn’t end there though as now in present day, Kaylie decides that the mirror needs to be destroyed so that it can never cause anyone pain again. With the help of her recently released from incarceration brother Tim, they prepare themselves for a night of terror in the hope that by morning the mirror will be destroyed and they can put their horrible ordeal behind them. But as The Lasser Glass’ mind tricks begin to engulf them and their reality starts to sink back into what happened 11 years ago, the destruction of the mirror seems almost hopeless.

When a film is only 20 minutes in and you have already jumped out of your skin to man kicking a box then you are probably onto something. The creepy atmosphere that Oculus creates is what, among other things, really draws you in, it grabs hold and rattles about your every last nerve. The viewer begins to embody the characters themselves, their fears become yours, and Kaylie and Tim escaping this nightmare feels all that more vital as you are trying to escape it as well.

Director Mike Flanagan really did an excellent job of intertwining the realities, we are shown both the story from 11 years ago and the one in present day. When the older Kaylie and Tim begin to remember what happened to them, they are thrust back into reliving those horrific days when The Lasser Glass took over their family. Although at some points you may feel lost, as soon as a scare comes through you get your bearings back. You really have to otherwise you won’t be able to prepare yourself for the next jump.

When you look at films such as Signs, Halloween or The Thing, they are such landmark films that give us the shivers even to this day; and one of the main reasons is the music score. Some simple notes can add a lot of terror to a film, tunes that will stick with you even after the film has ended. Oculus is one of those films, its bassy long notes, which are uncovered when the cast are running frantically from the antagonists, almost resemble an air raid siren. Something audiences recently saw in 2012’s Evil Dead remake. When those sirens start-a-comin’, you better be-a-runnin’.

You are constantly guessing with Oculus, although you can follow the plot. What will mystify you is the mirror itself, as it isn’t so much a being, but more a force. We aren’t really indulged into its power until about half way through the film as well, so when the scares come, and they do, you really don’t know what to expect.

Tag Line: You See What It Wants You To See.

 

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.