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: ☆☆

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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:

 

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:

Shocking Saturday: A Clockwork Orange

For this weeks Shocking Saturday I re-watched a film which is a classic in cinema, although not actually a horror film but a psychological thriller, it is rather shocking nonetheless. I am talking about the 1971 Stanley Kubrick directed ‘A Clockwork Orange’, which first caused controversy on its release, due to the main character being obsessed with ultra-violence, rape and Beethoven; but is now seen as a work of art.

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Being one of my favourite films, I was bound to review it at some point. I’m not even sure where to begin, for fans of the 1962 ‘Anthony Burgess’ novel of the same name, I’m sure you would agree that ‘Kubrick’s’ film does the book justice. Even though the film ends a chapter short of the book.

As soon as that first shot comes in and ‘Alex DeLarge’s’ charming British voice begins to narrate, the audience are in for a ride, what is to come will have you questioning what it was that you just saw. We are taken through a typical night for ‘Alex’ and his ‘Droogs’, as they beat up a drunk, homeless man and then proceed to sexually assault a woman in her home. After his gang members decide that they don’t want him as their leader any more, they create a plan to have him arrested and sent to prison. Whilst inside ‘Alex’ does his best to suck-up to the prison priest, in order for him to sign him up for a cure which is supposed to get you out of jail early and stop your violent urges – the ‘Ludovico Technique’. But once undergoing the treatment, he realises that it is nothing like he imagined, and the outside world has also changed beyond his belief.

As we are taken through the life of ‘Alex’ we see him commit violent acts with the help of his gang, mainly because it is a different way of life than following what the rest of the public do, in other words he doesn’t want to become a clockwork orange.

Malcolm McDowell plays the role of the ruthless ‘Alex’ flawlessly, starting with making the audience despise him due to that acts which he is committing, coming across as a, although educated, psychopathic teen, and we cower as we see him lure others into his seduction. However, yes he is a killer and who most would call the antagonist, but you just can’t help but notice his charismatic charm, and throughout the second half of the film, the audience are forced in to sympathising with the boy, even though it is clear that he is getting his comeuppance.

It is every aspect which is put in that makes this film excellent, from the imaginative props and setting of the ‘Moloko’ bar; where ‘Alex’ and his ‘Droogs’ hang out before going out for a night of mayhem. To ‘Alex’ being apparently cured in the ‘Ludovico centre’. Everywhere the film is taken, your eyes and ears never get bored, that could possibly be because the dialogue is in an English-influenced Russian slang called ‘Nadsat’, so you are constantly trying to work out what the characters are saying, however you do begin to pick it up as the film goes on.

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One of the best scenes, and the most famous, is that of when ‘Alex’ is strapped to a chair and forced to watch violent videos on a screen during the ‘Ludovico Technique’, even if he wants to close his eyes he can’t due to some clamps which have been applied. So he is forced to sit there and witness the scenes of fighting, rape and concentration camps; all to the score of Beethoven’s – or as he refers to him as ‘Ludwig Van’ – 9th symphony in the background. As we watch and see the effects which the videos are having on him, it is mirrored on to us as we are immersed in to his mind.

The visionary mind of Stanley Kubrick has once again given birth to an incredible psychological film. He has so many great directing credits under his belt – ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Spartacus’, ‘The Shining’, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ – but for me ‘A Clockwork Orange’ will always be his best.

A truly great film which I believe should be on everyone’s top films list.

Tag Line: Being The Adventures Of A Young Man Whose Principal Interests Are Rape, Ultra-Violence and Beethoven.

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

Star Rating:

Shocking Saturday: Ginger Snaps

This week’s Shocking Saturday is a film which takes the werewolf genre to a different level, even though it was released in 2000. Rather than having a high budget CGI amplified film, it’s a gritty, dark, energetic horror flick, with some cracking practical make-up effects.

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The story follows two sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) who are both obsessed with death, and believe that the only people they can rely on is each other. There have been reports on the news of dogs being attacked and killed all over town but the girls don’t think anything of it, and after Brigitte is attacked by a girl at school they go out to get revenge. However whilst carrying out their plot, Ginger is brutally attacked by an animal but Brigette drags her to safety. Over the next few days Ginger begins to change, her moods change, her opinions change and her body begins to change. What is first thought of as puberty turns out to be something much more sinister.

As you can probably imagine, the story revolves around the werewolf theme, but it is not just your typical; person gets bitten, person turns into a werewolf and person is killed by a silver bullet story line. ‘Ginger Snaps’ adds in to the mix the feelings of growing up joined with the feelings of turning in to a werewolf. Also the transformation of Ginger in to the beast is shown so differently than what I have seen before in films, the change is slower than usual, so as the days pass by you can see the effect which the transformation is having on her. Ears get pointy, fur emerges and a tail is sprouted. All the while Ginger’s persona is also completely changing, instead of the socially awkward fully clothed girl who was close with her sister, she has become a typical slutty American teen, who is just after boys and is constantly arguing with her family. The sombre-toned lighting present throughout the film really goes well with the feeling which it gives off; a horror film with teenage-angst mixed in.

One of the greatest aspects about ‘Ginger Snaps’ has to be the make-up effects, although CGI can sometimes be vital to making a film work (Godzilla), this movie just wouldn’t be anywhere as good as it is without its effects created by hand. They really make you feel the pain of what Ginger is going through.

Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins take on their roles so well, both when they are close sisters and when they are driven apart. Isabelle will be forever remembered as her role as Ginger, even though recently she appeared in American Mary and gave a flawless portrayal. It is in this film that she truly wins the audience over.

I would definitely recommend ‘Ginger Snaps’ to any horror fan, it is a fast-paced, violent thrill-ride which does not let up until the finale.

Also if anyone is wondering about the sequel (Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed), it is also amazing.

Tag Line: She’s Got The Curse.

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

Star Rating:

Shocking Saturday: American Mary

This weeks Shocking Saturday film has me torn between whether or not I really enjoyed it. There’s no doubt that American Mary keeps you gripped to the screen for the duration of the film. However by the end it may make you pose the question…What was the actual story line?

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Mary is a lonely, young woman who is studying to become a surgeon. All she wants to do is prove herself worthy to her grandmother and judgemental teacher, however money problems cause her to attempt to find work in a strip club. She presents her CV to the employer who explains that she can make $5000 if she performs a quick surgery on someone. With the extra money in her pocket and after being invited to have drinks with several of the other surgeons she thinks that everything is looking up. That is until a certain event changes her way of thinking completely, and forces her into the world of body modification. As the films continues Mary changes her entire morals and ends up performing procedures which she had never even dreamed of.

I did really enjoy the first half of the film because the plot was so imaginative and original, but after we progressed in to the second half of the film it seemed to me as though they were just trying to glamorise body modification. This is no stab at that line of work, but it felt as though I was watching a completely different film. Although to be fair Sylvia and Jen Soskia, the director’s, have said that they wanted to create a film which showed off people who are looked at as different in society, which it does.

Katharine Isabelle plays a brilliant role for the horror genre, emerging from the lonely medical student to a strong woman who enjoys the occasional murder and changing people’s features to that of which god did not intend. Isabelle was first introduced to horror cinema – in what will probably always be remembered as her most remarkable role – in the 2000 film ‘Ginger Snaps’ where she played the lead role of ‘Ginger’, another movie which saw her change from two different characters throughout. Both characters (American Mary and Ginger Snaps) slightly mimic each other, with their ‘don’t-really-give-a-f**k’ attitude.

The make-up effects and acting is flawless throughout, but it is just the fact that the plot appears to whither away towards the end of the film. Plus I thought that the ending had been rushed, as though the writers couldn’t really figure out how to conclude the film so they created something which I didn’t think had any real relevance to the rest of the film.

Do not let the fact that the story doesn’t stay compelling throughout the whole film put you off though, as many horror fans will definitely enjoy American Mary. Mainly due to the original plot and the amazing graphic effects, so give it a watch but just don’t expect a spectacular ending.

Tage Line: Appearances Are Everything.

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

Star Rating:

Shocking Saturday: Bug

The film that I viewed for this weeks Shocking Saturday was absolutely superb, although not an all round horror – more of a psychological thriller, it still had horrific parts to it and was very enjoyable. Plus the fact that it is was directed by William Friedkin (director of The Exorcist) enticed me even more.

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The story centres around Agnes (Ashley Judd) who is living a lonely life in a motel room, drinking, smoking, doing drugs and living in fear of her violent ex-husband. After her child went missing 10 years ago she lets the days pass by without a thought. That is until she is introduced to Peter (Michael Shannon) who explains that all he is looking for is a friend to talk to. Although when the two talk there are a lot of awkward moments, Agnes still lets him stay with her. As the two become closer, she learns of Peter’s terrifying past and wants to help him in any way she can. That begins to proves difficult as Peter starts to complain about there being Aphids (a type of plant lice) crawling about in her room and biting him at night. At first it just appears to be a harmless bug infestation, but as the bug bites become more present and violent, it seems that something more sinister is at work here. Agnes has two options, believe Peter and think there are bugs crawling all over the room and under their skin, or consider the fact that it is all in his mind.

The film not only makes Agnes try to determine what is real and what is not, but is also makes the audience try to decipher between what is a delusion and what is reality. As we try to find out what is happening, ‘Bug’ makes us believe that what Peter is saying is true, and that perhaps he isn’t just a psychotic schizophrenic.

What really carries this film are the stellar performances from Michael Shannon and Ashley Judd. As Agnes (Judd) spends more and more time with Peter (Shannon) she begins to spiral down in to his madness and believe every word that he is saying. Judd did such a great job in showing this, from a lonely, single and probably alcoholic woman to a delusional, paranoid woman.

However it has to said that it is the performance of Michael Shannon which steals the show here. First coming across as a timid, awkward conspiracy theorist and evolving throughout the film in to a full-blown schizophrenic, who will do anything to himself to stop these bugs. Although we don’t want him to take Agnes down as well, when we first meet him his velvety-toned voice and the fact that he only wants a friend makes us sympathise with him, and continue to as the film goes on.

Michael Shannon is one of my favourite actors, I have seen him gradually go up on the silver screen since the early 2000s and always knew that his amazing acting capabilities would eventually be noticed. Now they have been, as his most recent role was as General Zod in the new ‘Man of Steel’ film. Throughout the years he has starred in: Pearl Harbor, 8 Mile, Bad Boys 2, Revolutionary Road, Boardwalk Empire and The Iceman among others.

‘Bug’ proves that William Friedkin can still shock viewers even after all these years. The Exorcist terrified audiences all over the world in 1973 and although viewers have become more desensitized to horror films since then, Bug proves that the genre still has a few tricks up its sleeve.

Tag Line: Paranoia Is Contagious.

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

Star Rating: