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.

insense

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.

insense 1

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: ☆☆☆

Advertisements

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.

kairo 2

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.

kairo 1

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.

Apocalyptic-2014-–-Hollywood-Movie-Watch-Online

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?

apoca 2

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: ☆☆

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.

conjur

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.

girls

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:

 ☆☆☆☆

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.

grave

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.

grave 1

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:

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.

vhs2 man

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: