Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Paranormal Activity Series ~ Paranormal Activity (2007)

Directed by: Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherstone and Micah Sloat (As themselves)

Paranormal activity is possibly one of the most popular and talked about series’ for a while or at least when it comes to ‘mainstream’ series’. Generally, mainstream movies get a bum deal as far as ratings go especially in the horrorverse and in my personal opinion, Paranormal Activity fared no better.

Paranormal activity is a ‘Found footage’ film, meaning it uses hand held camera work to make it appear the tapes were discovered and used to make a true story movie of real footage. This isn’t a new thing. We’ve been using this technique to tell raw and realistic stories for a good few decades and the sub-genre features some of the most iconic movies of modern time such as Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project to name the most popular. PA tells of a couple, Katie and Micah haunted by some sort of entity, Micah sets up cameras around the home to capture the events. Slowly we discover that this isn’t new to Katie and she has been subject to these hauntings since childhood.

Not dissimilar to most haunting stories, PA uses classic haunting tricks. Plates smashing, doors slamming, duvets being removed while the couple sleep, you know the deal. Sadly, it comes across as old hat for those of us who have seen a lot of horror movies. However, the feel is menacing and we know this isn’t Casper we’re dealing with but a malevolent and angry being targeting the couple for an unknown reason. It is understandable how many viewers would have been convinced that the footage was genuine and the simple effects are realistic and not over played. If anything, it can get a bit dull. Lots of sleeping! The story plods along at an easy pace most of the time and when there are revelations they’re not over the top or completely unbelievable but like I mentioned, you can get bored watching two normal people doing normal things such as sleeping and housework and it’s tempting to fast forward sometimes to get to some good bits. There’s the usual face in mirrors trick or doors creeping slowly open when no one is home or awake but frankly, I need more to get my heart racing.

Overall Paranormal Activity isn’t a bad film, just not a great one either. There are far better and more terrifying found footage and haunting films about and if someone asked me to choose one for them, this wouldn’t be my first suggestion, but if it was someone new to horror I’d probably be more inclined to say “try this”. It’s not too scary, but scary enough and will leave some new horror explorers wanting more and hopefully look for more like it and find themselves stumbling on some great horror that will get them hooked for life!

Rating? Meh, maybe a 5 or 6/10. 

Friday, 14 March 2014

Review - Stoker

Director - Park Chan-Wook
Starring -Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode

After the death of her father Richard Stoker, India Stoker meets her estranged uncle Charlie but while her mother is falling apart India becomes infatuated with Charlie and slowly uncovers what his motives for moving in with them really are. 

I was worried about this one. Park is my favourite foreign director and Oldboy is my single favourite foreign movie to ever be released. Stoker is Park's very first English Language movie and was written by Wentworth Miller and amongst the crew of producers Ridley and Tony Scott appear. Why was I worried when there's such an impressive array of names? How can anything ever live up to the success of Oldboy? I should be ashamed of myself for judging so quickly because Stoker is certainly the most impressive thriller I've seen in a long time.

Casting is perfect. Goode plays the mysterious, charming and handsome Charlie. He reminds me of Hannibal. Charming, handsome and talented but dark, mysterious and sinister. Wasikowska was slightly less impressive. Mostly because she's played this character as a strange loner before. However, her performance was fitting. India is an odd character. It's difficult to put your finger on her. Kidman is as always, dramatic and she is simply a pro.

Stoker is typically Park. The recurring patterns and colour themes of reds, greens and yellows. Looking back at Oldboy and the theme of purple and Lady Vengeance had black, white and red. The theme of insest and long lost family members and **following spoiler is in white, highlight the text to see** a child or infant death in tragic circumstances. These little things made me smile at the familiarity of the themes. The cinematography as a whole is beautiful. The scenery is captured in vivid colour, little flashes forward and back gives a certain style to the movie.

I am struggling to find faults with this. Perhaps it wasn't as violent as some would want from the ultra violent Park but I think any extreme violence could have spoiled it. That's for a viewer to decide. For me, perhaps it could have been a little more explicit. There is a sexual electricity between characters throughout some may find a little in your face at times.

I suggest anyone who is a fan of Park get out and watch it. I will be buying it as soon as I can. I did take a little look at Bluray features but they are limited on the rental copy. I do suggest Bluray for this one. The colours and sound deserve it.

My Rating - 9/10 Will Park ever disappoint me?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Review - Insidious Chapter 2.

I know, I know. I've been slacking, between kids birthday, new schools, a new addition to the family on the way and an old one moving in I've not had time to breath never mind watch and write. So I do apologise I will try to be a bit more punctual and go back to posting at least weekly. Housekeeping aside, I have gotten back onto the horror wagon with Insidious Chapter 2!

Director - James Wan
Starring - Patrick Wilson, Rose Byr
ne, Barbara Hershey.

After the ordeal of the previous chapter, the Lambert family take some time to recover at Josh's mothers house. When things start happening Renai is convinced its not over. The family call on Carl, Specs and Tucker, Friends and former colleagues of the ill fated Elise Rainer and discover the horrific truth about Josh's history and what has been haunting him and his family all this time.  

I really enjoyed chapter one. I'm not a huge fan of ghosts or hauntings. Slamming doors and wrattling crockery just doesn't do it for me. However, Wan created something much more. It was everything I looked for in a ghost themed horror movie so when I heard there would be a chapter 2 I was excited to have all those loose ends and questions dealt with and hopefully get some good scares in too. 

The acting was wonderful. It's so nice to actually believe that the characters are scared. Patrick Wilson was creepy while being sympathetic in his own tragic way. Byrne was believable and her fear seems genuine, sucking me right into the terror. Specs and Tucker returning was the highlight. They're like the frog brothers of this generation bringing some light comedy to ease tension and give that false sense of security. The actual haunting going on was terrifying! While we do have the usual babies toys playing to themselves, radios switching on, doors opening on their own etc there is plenty of visual scares too. Plenty is left to the imagination but there are payoffs. The ghost haunting them is a tragic little character and his reasons for his crimes in life and death seem justified. You'll see what I mean if and when you see it. I don't want to give too much away but a certain maternal character is terrifying even alive. 

I definitely think everyone should give this a chance. Infact give Wans ghost stories a chance. All three (Insidious chapter 1 and 2 and The Conjuring) are terrific and put the horror factor back into the genre. Wan has proven that even though, Saw was and still is one of my favourite movies despite it losing its soul later on he can do better than the "Torture porn" a lot of horror fans dislike. I would even say none horror fans get on this. Everyone loves to be scared and this is perfect date movie to get the girl (or boy) cuddled up to you or even to watch alone in the dark. 

My Rating - 9/10!

Monday, 30 December 2013

The Human Centipede

Director - Tom Six
Starring - Dieter Leiser

Many a time I've gone to watch and each time I've remembered the storyline and thought.. "Really?"... But as Lovefilm has kindly added both films from the incomplete trilogy I got into bed with some chocolate (yeeeah I'm hardcore that way) and switched on.

The storyline is likely to be well known but for the sake of those who live under rocks.. A mad doctor, renowned for being a pioneer in separation of Siamese twins kidnaps two young women, a trucker and later a Japanese tourist to create a new project. The project is to sew three people together, anus to mouth. Why? Because he's mad obviously!

First off the acting of the two girls is terrible. Thankfully they are the middle and end piece of the creation so we don't have to hear them talk for long. The doctor who is frankly brilliant makes the movie bearable. When he describes to his patients what he'll be doing you actually shudder. He's just terrific! Kudos should also go to the Japanese guy. His final moments include a monologue which was delivered with near perfect conviction. Six's biggest mistake was including serious moments of perfection in a film that even he didn't seem to take seriously.

Now I'm under no illusion that the film is serious. There is an obvious dark humour running through it. There is a gross out factor, but like many others, I thought it wasn't explicit enough. It doesn't help the movie is incredibly over hyped by its fans, the people who disliked it because of its gross out factor and the director himself. If I had gone in blind, it'd probably had more of an effect. Maybe those people who did hype it up were the lucky few who hadn't heard so much about it.

Gore is minimal. For a film about people crapping into each other there isn't even any of that. Not that I'm complaining. However, for an "extreme" horror, there is little extreme about it. I wasn't all that grossed out like I wanted to be. Cinematography, it's fairly basic. Nothing really special here. Acting as mentioned before is pretty shocking but I'll give credit to Dieter Leiser (The doctor) for creeping me out during his explanation. There is very little to like here really. I did enjoy some of the dark comedy but it isn't a redeemable feature for the rest of the movie.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

It's been a while since I wrote horror, read horror or even really watched horror therefore coming here has been pretty left out. Personal life and crap in the way. Anyway, I decided its time for a come back. But as horror is living on the back burner at the moment I've decided to review a none horror for now. However, the love of violence is still here.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Directed by - David Fincher
Starring - Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Stellan Skarsgard.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is probably one of this decades most read thrillers. While every other woman was captivated by the Shades of Grey novels I was unable to put the first Steig Larsson's fantastic Millennium Trilogy down. The books have sold billions of copies all over the world and Sadly Larsson passed away before he could see the storm his perfectly written trilogy had created or the franchise it had become. David Fincher's version is not a remake of the Swedish adaptation but a stand alone adaptation of the book.

The story centres around Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist and editor of Millennium magazine. After his career and credibility is all but destroyed by a libel scandal he is hired by the ageing Henrick Vanger to investigate the disappearance and possibly murder of his great niece during the 60's and the prime suspects are member of her own family. Reluctantly Blomkvist agrees and during his investigation he comes across the talented but socially awkward hacker and private investigator, Lisbeth Salander. Together they discover that there is a far more sinister reason for the girls disappearance than anyone ever imagined.

Clearly Fincher knows the book well and adapted is near on perfectly. While the Swedish version from 2 years earlier is a fantastic film, Fincher as usual, has put his all into keeping his adaptation as close to the original material as is possible. I am a fan of Finchers work and rarely can I pick faults. The casting is perfect. At first I thought Daniel Craig would be far too high profile as Bond to ever be able to play Blomkvist convincingly without me waiting for him to shoot someone with a pen but Craig really pulls it off. Rooney Mara is excellent as the cold, emotionless Salander. However, I do still prefer Noomi Rapace in the role. In my opinion, Rapace is Salander so Mara had big shoes to fill and while she filled them well, Rapace was more captivating.

Cinematography wise, its basic for Fincher but set against a beautiful Swedish backdrop its easy to appreciate its simplicity. The opening is a work of art though and something akin to a Nine Inch Nails video and quite usual for Fincher. His openings are always stunning on their own.

Overall I do still prefer the Swedish adaptation but Fincher as always has impressed me. I really enjoyed it and felt it stayed true to the almost perfect material it was working from. I do hope he continues the trilogy at some point. It would be a shame not to.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Book Review - Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Bright

So I don't usually read horror novels or stories. I'm a visual person but every now and then a book is so well written and the horror so well described I can visualise is as easily as if I was watching it on screen. Only time this has really happened with a horror is Stephen King so when a friend brought round some books for me to try, mostly crime and I found a book by "Poppy Z Bright" amongst them I thought why not.

Exquisite Corpse is the story of two serial killers. One a London based gay necrophiliac who escapes from the confines of his prison cell and travels across the pond and the other a gay cannibal with a liking for young tourists and runaways in New Orleans.

The first killer, Andrew Compton tells his story from the first person in past tense. Getting us deep into the mind of a psychopath. The depth Bright goes into to describe who he is and what he does is intense. Stomach churning accounts of how he murders, rapes and tears apart (in that order) his victims made me nauseous I could smell the blood and other bodily fluids. Compton is complex. The almost genuine love he feels for his victims is poetic and twisted.

Jay, our second killer is told from the third person and while his character is less complex and in depth as Compton he's still an interesting person. Jay is a wealthy man who uses his money to entice young homeless boys to his home where he drugs them, has sex with them and eventually kills them. Eating some, storing others for later use. Eventually the killers meet causing the perfect storm, you can see where it's going to go.

The theme seems to be HIV and Aids amongst gay men in the 80's. All the characters are male, gay and most of them HIV positive. One character, a complicated man named Luke life has been destroyed by testing positive for the virus and as during that time little was known about its cause or effects Luke is angry and in pain mentally and yearns for his ex lover, Tran, a Vietnamese homosexual who is a disgrace to his traditional family.

As far as horror goes, it's not supernatural but pure human destruction. The scariest kind. The story is captivating, devastating and brutal. The descriptions of the characters actions are vivid and in depth. During the climax if I hadn't been in the bath while reading I would have needed a scrub down afterwards!

I highly recommend this book for those intrigued by the criminal mind. It is written like an erotic novel but there is nothing titillating only provocative. I will be seeking out Brights other books but after reading Exquisite Corpse I will have fairly high expectations.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

August underground Part Three! (Finally!)

So its been a few weeks since i watched due to health, personal and other crap. So finally here is my review for August undergrounds Penance.

The trilogies finale at last. This is something else. Forget what you saw in the first 2, the 3rd and final part is a whole new level of nasty. You really have to really drop all morality while watching in order to sit through. And many a person has had to watch in parts. I hate doing that so I sat through it from opening to closing without stopping. I won't lie, I did kind of know what to expect. I knew the first 2 were tame compared to this one. Vogel really has outdone himself.

The story is pretty much the same. Now we have Fred and his girlfriend only. How much time has passed since part 2 is unknown. There is no real indication as to what happened to the brother but you can kind of put 2 and 2 together from the ending of Mordum. The atmosphere is very different. As always we see Fred and the girl doing couple things. Messing around, professing their love to each other. Being together like any other "normal" couple. As the film goes on and we see their crimes take place - much more explicit this time I should add - we feel a depressive atmosphere now. It isn't fun and games anymore. There are problems with Fred, personal issues we clearly get to know. He and the girl are not the same as they were previously, the love is dying. During a particularly disturbing and brutal home invasion scene, which I will admit, did get to me we see these issues clear as day. While Fred has become impotent and he needs more sick stimulation, his girlfriend has lost it. She goes from looking rather fresh faced at the beginning to looking tired, depressed and resembling a long term drug abuser. They come to blows eventually and the finale, what I really did not expect is intimate, distressing and just plain sad. To compare it to your run of the mill, emotionless torture porn is inaccurate. There is a lot more going on. Psychologists would have a field day with it. Fred and his girl would make perfect subjects for a psycho-sexual analyst and you can literally choose any scene and pick it apart to read between the lines.

The violence has escalated. A disgusting shot involving a fetus almost, (ALMOST) made me gag. There is a lot of internal organs to be seen. The home invasion scene - taken place during Christmas eve to add insult to injury - is explicit and brutal. Being shot in HD rather than the degraded footage from the earlier films is a bit disappointing. It was one of my favourite elements and gave it that sordid realistic underground feel I love but we do get to see all the blood, tissue and violence in all its glory and it shows off Toe-Tags FX team's amazing talent fully and I can appreciate it even more. I am again, extremely impressed!

Penance is definitely the highlight of the series. It is brutal, emotional and disturbing and while some changes were made, for better and for worse, the film stays true to its predecessors. Watching the self destruction of the serial killers is powerful. The way they go from youthful and excitable to tired and miserable is harsh. If they weren't who they were we'd feel sorry for them. Vogel, you've turned me! I was pretty negative towards this kind of horror before watching the series but now I've experienced it, I take back anything I've ever said!


Overall, the series hasn't been enjoyable. I am glad I sat through them and each one in full (Yeah I can now show off that badge of honor!). It certainly is an experience, but not one I'd recommend unless you know what to expect to an extent. This isn't a walk in the park and it is the epitome of extreme underground horror. While I wouldn't make them a regular watch I cannot fault them for being so bold. The talent among Toe-Tags is undeniable. Credit where credit is due, I am pleased, although not pleasantly, with the films. If you're an avid extreme horror fan and have doubted that August Underground is anything more than a torture porn for the hardened, give it the chance it deserves!

You can buy all 3 AU DVDs from the Toe-Tags website in the US from - http://www.toetag.biz/
Alternatively, you can find them on amazon, but expect a hefty price tag...