Archive for the Horror Category

Screened In Sundays: The Devil’s Backbone

Posted in Foreign, Horror, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

Before Guillermo del Toro brought us the magical tale Pan’s Labyrinth, the superhero chronicles of Hellboy, or almost took the director’s seat for The Hobbit, he made a little Spanish horror film called The Devil’s Backbone. Made back in 2001, the story takes place in an orphanage (doesn’t every Spanish horror movie?) set in 1939 and revolves around a young boy who moves in. Almost immediately, the young boy, named Carlos, starts hearing strange noises and even catches a glimpse of what he believes to be a ghost.

This story is much more complex and deep than a simple ghost story, which may explain why del Toro decided to reveal the ghost’s appearance so early on in the story. When Carlos starts to investigate the paranormal occurrences of the estate, he discovers some very dark secrets about the history of the orphanage. The Devil’s Backbone provides much more than a good scare – there’s a deeply affecting emotional story that may just catch you off guard.

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Screened In Sundays: Trick r’ Treat

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

I can count on my hand the number of legitimately great horror movies that were released in the past decade. When it comes to great Halloween horror movies, there’s not a huge library to choose from.  Trick r’ Treat is not only a great horror-comedy on its own, it’s also without a doubt the best Halloween movie ever made. Sure, Halloween is set on the famous holiday, but that movie isn’t really about the title’s namesake. Trick r’ Treat captures everything I love about Halloween – the spooks, legends, decorations, costumes, and the desire in people to be something they’re not.

The anthology is divided into four interwoven stories: an everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the one guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband (thanks IMDB!). All the stories are somehow connected and they are all told out of chronological order. This makes for a fun viewing experience – when you spot something unusual you just know it’s going to come back in a big way to explain itself.

The movie’s cast is a fun bunch – led by a younger Anna Paquin and a hilarious Dylan Baker. Trick r’ Treat had a terrible journey to DVD/Blu-Ray and was completely left out of theaters because of behind-the-scenes squabbles. It’s a shame – moviegoers missed out on a truly unique Halloween experience.

Screened In Sundays: Let Me In

Posted in Drama, Horror, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

It’s incredibly rare that an American remake ends up being better than its foreign original, but with Let Me In, that’s the case. 2008’s Swedish Let The Right One In was and is a near-masterpiece, and fans understandably cried foul when the American remake was announced, as well as the filmmakers’ intentions to make the two leads older.

The story revolves around a young boy named Oscar who is a loner and on the verge of violently lashing back at his bullies. A young girl and older man move in next door from his apartment, but Oscar starts to notice strange things about the two neighbors. The windows are completely covered in cardboard, and the girl, named Abby, only comes out at night and smells weird. She’s also an ace at completing a Rubik’s Cube.  Yes…Abby is a vampire.

The American remake keeps everything that was so great about the original (the innocence of young love, spooky atmosphere, brutal bullying), and even brings more to the plate thanks to the talents of director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield). There is one sequence involving a car crash that may be one of the best filmed sequences in any movie of all time, and that’s no exaggeration.

The kids are played here by Kodi-Smit McPhee (The Road) and Chloe Moretz (Kick Ass) to perfection. It’s amazing that so much emotion can come out of such young people, but you really end up caring for these characters. Richard Jenkins was perfectly cast and is heartbreaking as Abby’s caretaker/father/who knows.

I love Let The Right One In…it’s one of my favorite movies of the past 5 years. But if I ever decide to experience this story again, I will almost always pop in its American remake.

Screened In Sundays: Eden Lake

Posted in Horror, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

There are many movies that have been made about damsels in distress being hunted by something/someone in the forest. Why do people find this plot so appealing? Maybe it’s the human will to survive on display, or maybe horny guys just want to see busty women in distress. Well, the former is what attracts me to horror films in general, and Eden Lake ends up being much more than a horror film.

The story follows a couple (Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender) who try to spend a romantic weekend on, you guessed it, Eden Lake. Their plans go awry, however, when they encounter a gang of obnoxious and sadistic kids who won’t leave them alone.

There are a few moments in the film that have literally haunted me since I first saw the movie 4 years ago. While the film is brutal, violent, and hard to watch at times, writer/director James Watkins is always hinting at something beneath the surface. Once the final shot closes the film, you realize that the film doubles as a social commentary on the poor state of youth in this day and age.

Screened In Sundays: Triangle

Posted in Horror, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2012 by judsonw

1 underseen gem every Sunday.

Triangle (2009)

Mindfuck. The term is used in different ways by different people. If a movie’s subject matter is fucked up, like say Requiem for a Dream, is it considered a mindfuck? Or does the term apply when the plot is so hard to get your head around that your mind literally feels like it’s been tied to the bed posts and taken for a ride. Well, this little seen yet brilliant Australian film will give your mind the time of its life.

The movie opens with a group of friends on a sailing trip in the Atlantic Ocean. When they come upon a storm, they must abandon their sailboat and board another ship. The movie starts out very familiar. There are horror movie character archetypes, and it honestly seems like it’s simply going to be a decent horror movie. But then the shit hits the fan, and that mindset goes out the window quick. This is no ordinary horror movie.

From then on out, the movie is a series of twists, “what the hell is going on” moments, and true terror. A great physical performance from Melissa George is just the icing on the cake. The film also features a young Liam Hemsworth before he was Gale/Mr. Miley Cyrus. Triangle is a movie that deserves to not only be watched once, but again, and again, and again. The theories that come out of viewing this film are almost as exciting as the film itself.

Where can you watch it?

Netflix, Amazon Instant, iTunes

Movie Review: Insanity on full display in “Black Swan”

Posted in Drama, Horror, Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , on December 22, 2010 by judsonw

There’s a moment in director Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan where ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman) walks into her mother’s room full of paintings. She glances inside, notices it’s empty, and continues on her way. However, for a brief second, the eyes of one of the portraits in the room moves. Moments like these, a brief moment where you question what you just witnessed, are what make the film such a unique experience. The combination of Aronofsky’s inventive filmmaking and Portman’s devestating performance as a dancer gone mad, makes Black Swan a true dive into the mind of a crazy person.

In Black Swan, Nina is a ballerina in New York City who finally gets her dream role of the Swan Queen in the upcoming production of “Swan Lake.” To say Nina is sheltered would be putting it lightly, as she still lives with her overbearing mother (a scary good Barbara Hershey) who is trying to live the dream that she was never able to accomplish in her former ballet career. The role of the Swan Queen requires two separate personas: the White Swan and the Black Swan. Nina embodies the White Swan perfectly; she’s innocent, weak, and graceful. However, it’s the Black Swan she’s cant grasp; a being full of sexuality and recklessness. When Nina meets a rival dancer named Lilly (Mila Kunis), who seems to be the perfect Black Swan, her world starts to unravel. Question is, are we really seeing what we think we’re seeing?

There are so many different ways to view and dissect Black Swan. It can be seen as a retelling of Michael Powell’s 1948 classic ballet tale The Red Shoes. The film was obviously inspired by Powell’s impactful movie, especially in the showstopping performance of “Swan Lake.” The movie can also be seen as just another telling of “Swan Lake.” As the show’s director (Vincent Cassel) so bluntly puts it early on in the film, it’s been done to death. Characters in Black Swan fit nicely into the roles of “Swan Lake” and the story progresses in an almost identical manner. Aronofsky doesn’t make the interpretation any easier, as he adds numerous little signs early on that everything isn’t what it seems. Whether it’s Nina seeing her face on the head of another or the growling sound of the subway, we’re constantly meant to question whether what we’re seeing on screen is in fact real or imagined. The fact that there are mirrors everywhere in the film just adds to the ambiguity, double meanings, and “did I just see what I thought I saw” moments.

The screenplay by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, and John McLaughlin isn’t anything to write home about. However, Aronofsky makes the story his own with his signature inventive style. The camera is constantly following Portman over the shoulder, giving the feeling of actually being there, just following her on her way to the dance company. The same can be said for the dance scenes as the camera is right up in the middle of the twirls, jumps, and leaps (okay, I don’t know any ballet terms, shoot me). This up close and personal nature makes it even tougher for Portman, who has to prove herself as a capable dancer to both her director and us, the audience.

Speaking of Portman, she’s simply exquisite. She captures Nina’s innocence and weakness, repeatedly apologizing for every wrongdoing. You just want to smack her and yell “stand up for yourself” with each vulnerability on display. As the film progresses through Nina’s mental breakdown, however, Portman takes on a different role completely. So much is demanded of her as she puts herself on display sexually, emotionally, and physically. The sport of ballet destroys Nina completely. The same can be said for the experience of watching Black Swan, but only in the best of ways. A psychological drama mixed with true horror and disguised as a ballet film, the movie will stay with you long after the screen goes black. Like Nina, the film strives for perfection and very nearly achieves it.

A-