Category Archives: Horror

The Night House (2021) Review

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The Night House

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, sexual references & offensive language
Cast:
Rebecca Hall as Beth
Sarah Goldberg as Claire
Vondie Curtis-Hall as Mel
Evan Jonigkeit as Owen
Stacy Martin as Madelyne
Director: David Bruckner

Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep together-but then the dreams come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house call to her, beckoning with a ghostly allure. But the harsh light of day washes away any proof of a haunting. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into his belongings, yearning for answers.

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I didn’t go into The Night House expecting a lot. I just heard it was a horror movie starring Rebecca Hall that’s meant to be good. So I went into it fairly blind. However it was one of the biggest surprises of the year, especially for horror.

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The Night House is a psychological horror focusing on a widow who is going through a journey uncovering his life and who he was. Horror movies that explore grief and trauma isn’t anything new, in fact it’s becoming more prominent and overdone these days. However for what it’s worth, The Night House breathes new life into this very specific horror subgenre and is one of the better examples of that in recent memory. There’s a lot of genuinely scary ideas as it plays on the fear and acceptance of death. When the film eventually introduces supernatural elements, it fits in well with the rest of the plot and doesn’t feel out of place. Despite how it leans much stronger into horror in the third act, I really like how subtle and less flashy the horror is in the first two acts. The scares are there, but its not to the point where it’s too jarring or takes you out of the film. Helping the movie is the eerie atmosphere, there’s always something intensely uneasy that lingers throughout the runtime of the film. It is definitely a slow burn of a horror movie, but I appreciate how it took it’s time to build up its atmosphere and tell its story. In terms of faults, I did have some issues with the ending. While I liked the direction it went in and the overall idea, the ending itself was a little too abrupt.

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One of the highlights of the film is Rebecca Hall in the lead role, who gives one of her best performances yet. We spend most of the film with her alone for the most part, and she conveys so much even when she has very little support. This is her show, embodying her character’s feelings of loss and emotions when she makes some discoveries about her dead husband. The performance definitely helps the film work as well as it does. There are some decent supporting performances from the likes of Sarah Goldberg and Stacy Martin, but again this is Hall’s film.

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Another strong aspect of the film is David Bruckner’s direction. Some years ago he made The Ritual, another horror movie which I thought was good. However his work on The Night House is superb and another level. I love the visuals, the cinematography was striking and made great uses of optical illusions, architecture and symmetry. The sound design is also effective, and it has a fitting score from Ben Lovett which added to the atmosphere. The film delivers in creating an eerie and creepy atmosphere filled with tension. There are definitely jump scares, especially in the third act, but they don’t feel cheap and don’t break the atmosphere its been building up.

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The Night House was one of the biggest surprises of the year, especially for horror. The take on trauma and grief felt fresh, the direction is superb with a tense atmosphere, and Rebecca Hall’s performance was phenomenal. It is well worth checking out.

Halloween Kills (2021) Review

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Halloween Kills

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode
Judy Greer as Karen Nelson
Andi Matichak as Allyson Nelson
Will Patton as Deputy Frank Hawkins
Thomas Mann as younger Frank Hawkins
Anthony Michael Hall as Tommy Doyle
Robert Longstreet as Lonnie Elam
Dylan Arnold as Cameron Elam
Charles Cyphers as Leigh Brackett
Kyle Richards as Lindsey Wallace
Director: David Gordon Green

The nightmare isn’t over as unstoppable killer Michael Myers escapes from Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) trap to continue his ritual bloodbath. Injured and taken to the hospital, Laurie fights through the pain as she inspires residents of Haddonfield, Ill., to rise up against Myers. Taking matters into their own hands, the Strode women and other survivors form a vigilante mob to hunt down Michael and end his reign of terror once and for all.

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I was looking forward to Halloween Kills. I quite enjoyed Halloween (2018), it definitely had its issues but as a follow up to the original film set decades later, I thought it was really good. After the success of that movie, two sequels were announced, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. I had high hopes for Kills despite receiving one of the most divisive receptions for a Halloween film. While I’m prepared to say I like the movie, it is very disappointing.

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I could tell early on that the movie had some issues. The first 10 minutes are actually a flashback of the night of Halloween (1978). As well done as it was, essentially it’s just repeated information and doesn’t add a whole lot. That aside, plotwise it’s all a mess. While there were a number of characters in Halloween (2018), the focus was mainly on the Strode family. However after the ending with them almost killing Michael Myers in the last movie, Halloween Kills underutilises and sidelines them. Laurie Strode gets the worst treatment at all, having less than 15 minutes of screentime. The story mostly moves into a story about mob mentality as the people of Haddonfield are hunting down Michael Myers. While there were some good ideas and an effective scene or two, the attempts at social commentary and exploring cultural issues were misguided and didn’t work in execution. Some of the scenes where the people attempt to kill Myers are fine, they’re at least better than the scenes where people stand around and just declare that “evil dies tonight”. The movie also introduces the idea of Myers’s influence potentially turning the people of Haddonfield into monsters. However it only lingers on that idea for 5-10 minutes max before forgetting about it entirely. I really didn’t like was how they brought back characters from the 1978 film who were somewhat affected by Myers. It’s partially because it feels like the movie is relying so much on nostalgia, and tying all these people into the plot just felt so contrived.

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The other aspect of the plot is that of Michael Myers continuing to kill. Although I like the portrayal of Myers here, his scenes just weren’t the best. Halloween Kills definitely leans into him being superhuman, he’s comically unkillable. While the kills are definitely there, the encounters with him are more ridiculous and not scary, and they generally feel the same way with little variety or emotional impact. It doesn’t help that you already know that Michael Myers doesn’t die in this one, given that the next film is titled Halloween Ends. So any expectation or tension that he might die in this movie is just not there. The third act is where it becomes a conventional Halloween movie and gives up trying whatever they were attempting before. While I would generally call it a lazy fallback, it definitely works a lot better than most of what came before. The structure is a mess as it jumps between these three aspects of the story, none of them done very well. The story is dull and lacks the suspense and atmosphere from the 1978 and even the 2018 film. Even looking outside of the plot, the script is a mess. First of all, the tone. Halloween (2018) had quite a bit of humour in the film that felt quite out of place, but you were able to see pass them, and it at least focused up in the second half. However, the tone in Halloween Kills is all over the place. There is the aforementioned story about trauma, as well as the town getting ready to fight the shape that haunted them. However, it increases the jokes and silliness, and as much as I want to say that this is deliberately leaning towards camp (especially with the over the top kills), it is still taking itself seriously. The dialogue is definitely schlocky and silly but unfortunately not in an intentional camp way. Worst of all was how expository it was, dumping a lot of information on you and spells everything out in a rather insulting way, especially when its just repeating information from the past films. I think for all the issues it has, the most damning thing about Halloween Kills was how reluctant it is to move its story. It doesn’t really serve to have much purpose outside of following the last film, and doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. Only a few notable things happen, and not a lot is learnt. It just feels like it’s there to be a filler movie before the actual finale with Halloween Ends.

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The acting and characters are a mixed bag. Out of all of them, the highlights were the Strodes. While there is unfortunately much less of them, the trio of Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Andi Matichak are great. It’s a shame that they don’t get many scenes together and they feel rather wasted. Laurie Strode’s Jamie Lee Curtis is shockingly underutilised especially given the last movie. This leaves Greer and Matichak to have more screentime, and they do work well in their parts at least. Unfortunately, Halloween Kills makes the decision to rely more on its supporting characters, a number of them meant to be people who were around for the night on Halloween 1978. It certainly doesn’t help that the characters in this movie make some really dumb decisions. This is a movie where someone makes a big rousing speech and declares that they will stay together as they hunt the killer, and shortly afterwards they split up. This is also a movie where a couple discover that someone is in their house, and their first instinct is to go inside and confront him. It only makes the non-Strode scenes even more frustrating to watch.

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David Gordon Green’s direction was one of the best parts of the previous movie, and his work here is good, if not as great. The cinematography is gorgeous and stunning but devoid of the smooth long takes that made the first movie so effective. The atmosphere just isn’t there for this movie, and doesn’t really build up much suspense. Michael Myers himself is certainly one of the best parts of the movie. I liked his look with the burnt mask, and he is effectively menacing. However, his kill/scare scenes are a bit of a mixed bag. The title for the film is certainly apt, and the kills do deliver. This is one of the most violent Halloween movies, up there with the Rob Zombie films. It is brutal, gory and violent, so credit for that. However there was always something that irked me about those scenes. First of all the executions are what I imagine much of the Friday the 13th kills are like, not for scares or horror but for the audience to see the killer violently dispatching people. In fact, they felt more like Mortal Kombat fatalities more than anything else. There’s also something rather mean spirited in the way they just throw these kills in for the pleasure of the audience, and for as creatively violent as they are, ironically only 3-4 were memorable. One of the strongest aspects of the last Halloween movie was John Carpenter’s score which was amazing. While I don’t like his Halloween Kills score as much, it’s still one of the highlights and is distinctly different.

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Halloween Kills is unfortunately quite disappointing. The script is an absolute mess that tries to be so many things and can’t deliver on any of them. Ultimately it feels like a placeholder and filler movie, a movie just to draw out the conclusion with only a few things that move the film forward. It’s not without its strengths. It is generally well directed, I liked Michael Myers, and although they were under-utilised I liked the main three actors. I just hope that David Gordon Green and co. can pull off Halloween Ends because I’m much less confident in it after watching Kills.

Candyman (2021) Review

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Candyman (2021)

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror, suicide & content that may disturb
Cast:
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy
Teyonah Parris as Brianna “Bri” Cartwrigh
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Troy Cartwright
Colman Domingo as William “Billy” Burke
Vanessa Williams as Anne-Marie McCoy
Director: Nia DaCosta

For decades, the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green were terrorized by a ghost story about a supernatural, hook-handed killer. In present day, an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) begins to explore the macabre history of Candyman, not knowing it would unravel his sanity and unleash a terrifying wave of violence that puts him on a collision course with destiny.

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I was looking forward to the new Candyman movie, the original film was a horror classic and for very good reason. The 2021 film had some very talented people involved from Jordan Peele as one of the writers, to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the lead actor, and I really liked the looks from the trailers. I went into it not really knowing what to expect, and while I definitely have issues, I do like it on the whole.

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Before watching Candyman (2021) I highly recommend watching the original Candyman released in 1992, because there’s callbacks and references which won’t hit the same way if you haven’t seen it. This latest Candyman is very much a sequel set decades later, and you’ll get more out of it if you’ve seen the first film (on top of it being a really good film that’s well worth seeing). Plotwise the premise is initially similar as the protagonist is trying to uncover the local legend of the Candyman. It starts off well with a good setup, so I had a good feeling about it initially. I liked the horror elements, and I particularly liked how it made an effort to build upon the mythology of the Candyman as established in the original. However I have to say that overall the script has a lot of issues and is easily the thing that holds the film back from being great. First of all, the actual writing is mixed with some wonky dialogue, out of place humour and generally dull characters. Storywise it is a bit of a mess too, I wouldn’t say I was bored but there were some dull moments. The film introduces a lot of subplots but they don’t go anywhere and most of them aren’t concluded properly. The same goes for the character arcs, its almost like the film is a bit rushed or cut down. By the end much of the story felt underdeveloped and the conclusion was rushed, and so I felt unsatisfied. Candyman 2021 is way too short at 90 minutes long, it should’ve been much longer to flesh things out.

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Another aspect of the writing worth talking about is the themes. Like the original film there’s a lot of social and political commentary, and I was interested how the movie would handle them. The 2021 film has  some particularly timely and relevant themes its working with, including gentrification and police brutality. Unfortunately the way they handled the themes was a bit messy to say the least. It’s very blunt and on the nose, and it’s not inherently bad to be less subtle about it. However it’s to the degree where the film tells the audience about the themes. Candyman (2021) is definitely more into telling over showing. Instead of allowing the audience to interpret the themes of the film, it has characters literally talk about them. Not only that but they try to cram so many ideas into this one movie (a particularly short movie at that) and while that is certainly bold and ambitious, it doesn’t really succeed. By the end it touches on a lot of topics but doesn’t really explore them or end up saying much by the end, which was disappointing.

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There’s some good acting in this film. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is in the lead role here, and he’s great as to be expected. Teyonah Parris was good in her part, Colman Domingo was also good, although his character’s arc felt cut short. Outside of those three however, there’s some bad supporting roles and weak side performances.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from Nia DaCosta, but she’s definitely shown herself to be a great filmmaker here. The film is visually striking and stunning with beautiful cinematography and camerawork. Some of the best scenes of the movie were sequences that made use of cutout puppetry animation, often used for exposition, I loved the presentation of them. It does a fairly decent job at building up its atmosphere and tension. The horror is great with some well staged death scenes, although the use of CGI is a little distracting. Finally the score is eerie and haunting, really setting an effective mood throughout.

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Candyman (2021) is in some ways rather disappointing. It had some good ideas but with its script it felt both overstuffed and undercooked, and it is holding back much of the film. With that said I still think it’s good, from the main performances to Nia DaCosta’s impressive direction. If you watched the original Candyman and liked it, I do think this new film is worth checking out.

Last Night in Soho (2021) Review

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Last Night in Soho

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise “Ellie” Turner
Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie
Matt Smith as Jack
Michael Ajao as John
Terence Stamp as Lindsay
Diana Rigg as Alexandra Collins
Director: Edgar Wright

An aspiring fashion designer (Thomasin McKenzie) is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s, where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer (Anya Taylor-Joy). However, the glamour is not all it appears to be, and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.

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Last Night in Soho was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Along with a cast that includes Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, it’s Edgar Wright’s latest film. While I’m not a massive fan of his non-Cornetto trilogy movies, the premise sounded quite intriguing, and I was interested to see him take on a full-on horror movie. I heard some mixed things from people about the movie before going into it, which was surprising considering most people seem to love his films. While I do like the movie, I agree with most of the criticisms its been receiving.

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The first half actually started off quite well for me, despite some issues. You do notice a distinct difference from Wright’s other movies, definitely less quippy and witty, and with less humour. I don’t have a problem with this though, this is a different sort of Wright movie. Not only that, but the attempts of humour in the film don’t hit at all so decreasing the amount of humour was only for the film’s benefit. Wright is more subdued here, I might be in a minority here but I appreciate him trying something different. When it gets to lead character Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) beginning to when visions of the 1960s and seeing Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), that’s where it really picks up. This is where the film is at its peak, it was intriguing and held my attention. Something I do like is that its going back to a setting with nostalgia (particularly a setting that Eloise has nostalgia for), only to show the seedy and dark side of it. It is a cautionary tale about the dangerous of romanticising the past and I do like that idea (even though the execution is not the best).

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Then the second half happens. The plot stops being interesting or intriguing as Eloise goes through a descent into madness as she sees visions and ghosts, and we see less of the 60s setting. I think its at this point where I realised that I was more interested in the 60s plotline, and Eloise’s story wasn’t that interesting on its own. It definitely tries to have twists and turns but by this point the twists are very easy to predict. Last Night in Soho is a horror movie and its this second half where you really feel it. I’m not inherently against horror movies not scaring me, since only a few really scare me. However the horror falls shockingly flat, even Wright delivered better results with Shaun of the Dead. I distinctly remember the point that the film started to go downhill for the moment it introduces jumpscares and ghosts that haunt Eloise. Wright must think they are scary because he places these ghosts throughout this second half, and none of them are scary in the slightest. Maybe if it was intended to be camp then they would’ve worked, but Wright is aiming for genuine horror, and as a result it just comes across as really silly (in a bad way). While jumpscares can be used effectively, all of them feel completely clunky here. Even the gore and violence (and this is Wright’s most violent film) doesn’t really have any impact despite it intending to be shocking. The closest the film gets to being scary is a scene halfway through the movie where Eloise/Sandie is running through a club, and it does well at being effectively unsettling and creepy. Outside of that, none of the horror hits.

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As the movie enters into its second half, it touches on some really heavy material which I won’t mention by name for the sake of spoilers. It’s certainly ambitious to tackle difficult subject matter like those as long as enough depth is given to it, but the handling felt rather careless and glib here, particuarly with some of the horror sequences. Initially I was wondering whether I was just thinking too deep into it, until I reached the third act. Speaking of the third act, it’s been said by others that this is where it’ll make or break the film for many. I wouldn’t say it breaks the movie for me as I still like it overall. I will say that it certainly breaks the chance of me looking back at the plot in a positive way. It reveals its predicted twist and then rushes its way into a climax. While I predicted the twist earlier on, what followed the twist was something I didn’t predict because it was quite possibly the worst direction you could take the story in after everything that came before. The situation in the climax already feels contrived, forced and avoidable. However, even the simplistic message gets completely confused with the direction it takes in the third act, and just feels misguided at best, tone deaf at worst. Even the ending made me confused as to what kind of movie it was supposed to be, and not in a good way.

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This has to be some of the worst character work that Edgar Wright has done. The characters are 2 dimensional and feel like stock roles to fill rather than believable people. The innocent girl, the creepy old man, the mean girls, etc. So it is a credit to the cast that they pulled off good performances playing them. Thomasin McKenzie plays the lead character Eloise and she’s fantastic in this part. While I was not that invested in Eloise’s journey in the second half, McKenzie’s performance kept me on board with the character and with what she was doing. Anya Taylor-Joy is also excellent, embodying her character very well. In a way you could say that she’s underutilised given that she’s only seen during the visions and time travel scenes. However she is great and her presence is felt throughout. Other supporting actors are great too, especially Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, and Diana Rigg in her final performance.

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Edgar Wright directs and you do feel it, though refreshingly he does pull back on some of his filmmaking trademarks. For example the editing is still sharp but isn’t as snappy like his previous movies, and I appreciate him being more restrained with it. It is visually stunning to watch with Chung-hoon Chung’s cinematography, I particularly liked the use of colour. It is far Edgar Wright’s best looking movie. The recreation of the 60s time period is solid too, especially with the production designs, costumes and more. I like how they show the time travel, sometimes having Eloise and Sandie in the same room with Eloise being an observer, sometimes Eloise seeing Sandie in her reflection in the mirror. The soundtrack is great as expected given that this is an Edgar Wright movie, the score from Steven Price is also great and fits the tone of the film really well.

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I do like Last Night in Soho but it’s by far Edgar Wright’s messiest and most frustrating movie. It’s a shame because the first half showed itself to be a film with great potential, but the second half squandered all of that by the end. Even outside of the plot, there’s still a lot of issues. The characters are rather flat and one note, and the attempts at horror don’t succeed at all. However, I still like the film generally. The first half is good especially the glimpses into the 60s, the visuals and soundtrack are nice, and the actors are great in their parts, especially Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. For what it’s worth, I do think it’s the best of Edgar Wright’s non-Cornetto movies, though I’m not in love with Baby Driver or Scott Pilgrim as much as other people. It’s not really a movie I want to revisit anytime soon, if only because I feel like my thoughts on it will sour even further. With all that being said, I do think it’s at least worth watching.

1408 (2007) Review

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Time: 104 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains supernatural themes & violence
Cast:
John Cusack as Michael “Mike” Enslin
Samuel L. Jackson as Gerald Olin
Mary McCormack as Lily Enslin
Tony Shalhoub as Sam Farrell
Director: Mikael Håfström

A man who specializes in debunking paranormal occurrences (John Cusack) checks into the fabled room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel. As he settles in, he confronts genuine terror.

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I heard about 1408 for some time, I knew it as a horror movie based on a Stephen King book that starred John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson and involved a specific hotel room. Other than that, I had no idea what to expect from it, though I did notice some reactions to the movie to be a little mixed. I actually ended up enjoying it, even if I wouldn’t exactly call it a great movie.

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The setup of the movie is pretty simple, and the plot moves at a reasonable pace, really picking up from the moment that lead character Mike Enslin (played by John Cusack) first enters Room 1408. The story is pretty fun and kept my interest, especially with the mystery of the room even if by the end it doesn’t live up to its potential and build up. The movie does fall into some typical clichés of the genre and doesn’t surprise too much. With that said, I can say it very much feels like a Stephen King story, for better and for worse. It’s not scary but it is suspenseful and creative as everything is thrown at Enslin and he tries to figure out what to do next. I can’t tell whether some of the scenes are intentionally funny or just unintentionally funny, but some scenes were so over the top that I had fun with them, and not necessarily in a bad way. A particular scene involving a very agitated John Cusack and a mini fridge does make me feel like there was some self-awareness while making the movie. At the same time, there are some genuinely effective scenes, especially in the second half of the movie. I should point out that there are two versions (and apparently somehow three endings) of the movie. Strangely enough, the director’s cut is now the version of 1408 mostly on display for people to watch on Blu-ray and streaming services. Also strangely enough, the theatrical cut ending ended up being superior to the director’s cut. While I liked the initial idea and different direction of the director’s cut ending, ultimately the execution just ends up being really nothing and was unsatisfying. The ending in the theatrical cut, while seemingly less dark, was actually a lot more effective; sadly, you’ll probably only get to see that version if you have the DVD copy of 1408. So in saying that, directly after watching 1408 (it’ll no doubt be the director’s cut), I would recommend looking online at the theatrical cut ending.

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Much of the movie belongs to John Cusack, it’s basically a one man show for him and he does very well. His character is a strong sceptic about ghosts and hauntings as a writer, who is confronted with so much while inside this room and it’s very entertaining to watch him. He’s super into his scenes and embraces his character and all the emotions he’s tasked with delivering. Much of his acting can be hilarious at points, but I think that accompanies the tone of the movie very fittingly. On a side note though, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if Nicolas Cage was in the role instead simply for the over the top insanity scenes (that aforementioned mini-fridge scene certainly felt like a moment right out of a Cage film). Samuel L. Jackson is second billed in the cast but wasn’t in the movie much. However, he’s very memorable and good as the manager of the hotel who warns Cusack’s character about the dangers of staying in Room 1408.

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One of 1408’s strongest aspects was the direction from Mikael Hafstrom. The look of the movie outside of the hotel (and especially during the day) looks a bit off, but otherwise the film looks really great and is shot and composed well. Some strong atmosphere and tension are created early on, and again it shines particularly in the scenes in Room 1408. I don’t think the scares were particularly good, some the jump scares are honestly rather lame and ineffective, but the atmosphere and mystery portions of the film were good. The editing at points can be a little uneven but nothing movie breaking.

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1408 does have its issues and I wouldn’t place it as the top tier of Stephen King film adaptations, but I think it’s pretty good. The intriguing and entertaining story, the solid direction and the committed lead performance from John Cusack come together to make a decent horror movie. Don’t expect something at the level of like The Shining, but I do think it’s a movie you might have a lot of fun watching, worth a look.

Noroi: The Curse (2005) Review

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Noroi The Curse

Time: 115 Minutes
Cast:
Jin Muraki as Masafumi Kobayashi
Marika Matsumoto as Herself
Satoru Jitsunashi as Mitsuo Hori
Rio Kanno as Kana Yano
Tomono Kuga as Junko Ishii
Director: Kōji Shiraishi

A prominent paranormal journalist named Kobayashi (Jim Muraki) goes missing shortly after completing a documentary. What begins as an investigation into strange noises soon evolves into the chilling mystery of a demonic entity named Kagutaba.

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I had heard of Noroi: The Curse as an underrated horror movie. All I knew about it was that it was a found footage horror movie from Japan, and apparently it was quite scary. I had been meaning to watch it for a while, and having finally seen it I can say that while it has some issues it was quite good, and definitely should receive more attention.

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Interestingly, Noroi: The Curse aims to be both a found footage movie and a documentary style movie. Though some of the way it is edited doesn’t quite make sense in the context of the story, I went along with it. I’ll admit that for the first hour I wasn’t quite into the story. It does try to approach the story as a documentary which I understand, but I just wasn’t quite as invested as I’d like to be. The first hour is dense with a lot of information to keep track of, with elements introduced like psychic variety shows, many characters introduced, rituals, backstory, there’s a lot happening. It’s a lot but I admire the commitment to it. It is also a slow paced movie for sure, but even at its slowest I was still paying attention to the plot. It’s in the second half where it picked up for me. That’s when the footage moves beyond being used for a documentary and moves more into the people recording encountering spooky things themselves. There were some effective and creepy moments, some of them were effective, especially in the latter sections of the movie. While I won’t go into too much depth with the plot, what I can say is that the payoff at the end is worth it for sure.

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The acting is all around pretty good, it’s not the main focus of the movie but the performances are sincere. Whenever characters are reacting to creepy situations or information, their reactions feel genuine.

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It’s directed by Koji Shiraishi, and for the most part I think he did a good job. One of the strengths of found footage horror is that it often feels very real. That is definitely the case in this movie, especially in the second half and the last third of the movie. As previously mentioned, it does try to seem like a documentary with the way its edited, however some of the attempts don’t always work out so well. The most annoying parts were the subtitles and title cards at the start of some scenes, which give information of what’s happening, particularly because it doesn’t always commit to having a voice over, nor does it make an attempt to explain what’s happening within the video footage presented. As for the scares, sometimes it worked, and at other times it didn’t work so well. There’s one moment when the camera freaks out during an intense moment, glitches happen and we can see a creepy image through the glitches. After this moment however, the cameraman shows the footage to Kobayashi (the paranormal researcher in the movie), and we also get to see that glitched footage in slow motion, and that felt kind of pointless since we already saw that and it’s not going to make it any scarier. There are also some moments where some visual effects were added into the movie, and they are pretty bad and silly, and can take away from some of the moments. Thankfully they weren’t in the movie a lot.

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Noroi: The Curse does have some problems, some of it is to do with the direction and its approach as a mockumentary style film, and I wasn’t fully on board until roughly the second half of the movie. However I still think it’s worth watching, and it’s definitely an underrated movie. It is a found footage movie, but if you at least like any of the movies in that genre, find a way to seek it out, because it deserves much more attention.

Prince of Darkness (1987) Review

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Prince of Darkness

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1]
Cast:
Donald Pleasence as Priest
Victor Wong as Professor Howard Birack
Jameson Parker as Brian Marsh
Lisa Blount as Catherine Danforth
Director: John Carpenter

While cleaning the basement in his church, a priest (Donald Pleasence) comes across a canister filled with a volatile green substance. With help from Professor Birack (Victor Wong), he realises that the liquid is Satan’s spirit.

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I had heard about Prince of Darkness, I knew that it was a John Carpenter movie and some people said that it was one of his most underrated. I didn’t know much about it except it was supposedly involving the potential end of the world and had Donald Pleasence playing a priest. It turned out to be quite great, way better than I thought it would be.

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The script is quite clever and engaging, with an intriguing supernatural narrative. The scope is bigger than anything I’ve seen from Carpenter before, with this really being a big fight with the world at stake. Right away, it sets up this otherworldly tone and properly maintains that from beginning to end, with this unearthly atmosphere that still feels very much classic Carpenter. At the same time, despite the stakes of the movie, much of the movie is very contained. It generally takes place on one location over a day, a church, and it succeeds with this. It touches upon some quasi-philosophical topics while not getting heavy handed about it, and it still knows what it is. Sure, some of the science and religion talks don’t always gel and is a bit clunky, but that almost adds to the charm in a classic 80s horror way. It does contain some horror slasher conventions like how many of the characters are being killed one by one over the course of the film. It may be slow for some viewers, it definitely takes its time especially when compared to Carpenter’s other movies. However the payoff is great, and the movie concludes with a fantastic climax. Looking at all the elements, this could easily be Carpenter’s most ambitious and unusual film.

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Really the biggest weak link of the movie are the performances and the characters. The cast are a bit too big for the movie, probably so that there’s enough people who can be killed in this movie. As a result though, it’s hard to get attached to most of them. You do somewhat care about the main cast though, mainly Donald Pleasence, Victor Wong and Dennis Dun. The performances are a bit mixed, with the acting ranging from passable to hammy, to occasionally bad.

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John Carpenter directs this film, and as usual his work is good. It has this intense apocalyptic and unnerving atmosphere, with a sense of dread throughout. From the point that the movie starts, you get this feeling that something is wrong and off, and that feeling only escalates as the movie progresses. It’s filmed incredibly well and there are some memorable scenes, especially towards the climax. The setting of the abandoned church is just great to watch the characters run around in. The movie is gruesome, and the practical effects and the makeup are amazing, they have aged surprisingly well considering this movie is from the late 80s. Every John Carpenter score has a way of sticking with you, and Prince of Darkness is no exception. The music from him and Howarth is very synth heavy as usual, making the film’s atmosphere feel even more eerie and chilling.

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Prince of Darkness is an atmospheric, slow burn and thrilling horror movie. If you like Carpenter’s other horror movies like The Thing and Halloween or even just likes 80s horror movies in general, it is worth a look. Currently among Carpenter’s best movies that I’ve seen and one of his most underrated.

Videodrome (1983) Review

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Videodrome

Time:  84 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] contains content that may offend
Cast:
James Woods as Max Renn
Debbie Harry as Nicki Brand
Sonja Smits as Bianca O’Blivion
Peter Dvorsky as Harlan
Leslie Carlson as Barry Convex
Jack Creley as Dr. Brian O’Blivion
Lynne Gorman as Masha
Director: David Cronenberg

As the president of a trashy TV channel, Max Renn (James Woods) is desperate for new programming to attract viewers. When he happens upon “Videodrome,” a TV show dedicated to gratuitous torture and punishment, Max sees a potential hit and broadcasts the show on his channel. However, after his girlfriend (Deborah Harry) auditions for the show and never returns, Max investigates the truth behind Videodrome and discovers that the graphic violence may not be as fake as he thought.

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I’ve heard of Videodrome as a horror film directed by David Cronenberg and starring James Woods, it was meant to be something of a cult classic, but I had no idea what to expect from it going in. It turned out to be among the strangest movie watching experiences I’ve had, and I actually ended up loving it quite a lot.

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Videodrome was very much ahead of its time, in fact I can see it being inaccessible to some people. It’s really one of those movies that you will need to watch for yourself and determine what it is. This is especially considering that the lead character is a bit of an unreliable narrator and you can’t tell for sure whether what he (and by extension us) is seeing is real or not, which I guess was very much intentional. From what I can tell, Videodrome is a commentary about our desensitization to sex and violence through the media, as well as the power of media on the whole, especially with the rise of television at that time. Now the movie is very much set in a VHS era (in the 80s) but if you substituted television with the internet today, the message would still remain the same, and remain just as relevant if not more so. As a movie, it was a uniquely disturbing and fascinating experience for sure. I will say that I wasn’t certain about what was happening 100% of the time (again probably intentional), but I was going along with whatever was happening. As that, it really is best if you go into this movie and experience the strangeness for yourself without knowing too much beforehand. Cronenberg created such an uneasy and tense atmosphere that only grows the more you watch. The movie is 90 minutes long and for every minute you are invested in what is happening.

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James Woods does very well in the lead role of Max Renn. Despite his character being rather morally dubious, he does have a human aspect that evokes enough sympathy in the audience to make him watchable enough. Additionally, other actors in the cast like Debbie Harry and Sonja Smits also do well on their parts.

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David Cronenberg really shows off the best of his talents with Videodrome. Much of the uneasy feeling throughout the movie is due to his direction, there’s just a feeling of wrongness throughout, even when there’s not currently something weird or disturbing happening on screen. It’s very surreal, and claustrophobic at times, and helps to build up this uneasy atmosphere. The editing also contributes to this. Cronenberg has done lots of body horror in the past, and he does it again here with Videodrome to some great effect. There are some truly impressive and gruesome body effects which still hold up over 3 decades later. However it’s not just the body effects, there’s some effects that are meant to represent hallucinations and they do very well in making you question whether what’s happening on screen is real or not. Howard Shore’s score also fit perfectly with the movie, giving it even more eerie and uneasy vibe.

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Videodrome is a very weird movie for sure but it’s great, it’s directed incredibly, I was invested throughout, and it was such a uneasy and incredible experience. I actually want to get around to rewatching it sometime, because I feel like I’d get even more out of it on repeat viewings. While there’s many more of his movies that I have left to see, at the moment I’d say that this is one of David Cronenberg’s best, if not the best I’ve seen from him so far.

The Thing (1982) Review

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The Thing

Time:  109 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady
A. Wilford Brimley as Blair
T. K. Carter as Nauls
David Clennon as Palmer
Keith David as Childs
Director: John Carpenter

In remote Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed at their base camp by a helicopter shooting at a sled dog. When they take in the dog, it brutally attacks both human beings and canines in the camp and they discover that the beast can assume the shape of its victims. A resourceful helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and the camp doctor (Richard Dysart) lead the camp crew in a desperate, gory battle against the vicious creature before it picks them all off, one by one.

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John Carpenter’s The Thing was underappreciated on its release back in 1982, in fact it opened to very negative responses from audiences and critics alike (not helped that it came out around the same time as E.T.). However it found an audience when it released on home video and television, and today it is considered a horror classic, and for very good reason. It remains an incredibly effective and influential horror movie that holds up decades later.

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The Thing is a great mix of sci-fi, mystery and horror. It is gripping from beginning to end and I appreciate and notice new details every time I watch. Essentially it is an intriguing whodunnit mystery, that just happens to have a lot of thrills and gore in it. It has a feeling of claustrophobia and isolation throughout, which is on point and well tuned with John Carpenter’s classic minimalist aesthetics and atmosphere that are present in some of his other movies. It does so well at selling us on how hopeless it is trying to escape from this alien, you feel that sense of chilling paranoia around every corner, much like the characters do. Carpenter’s deliberate pacing and emphasis on the lack of escape also steadily increases the tension. Something which also increases the suspense is the lack of knowledge of who The Thing is at any given time, not to mention the lack of knowledge of what it even is. We also only see it react when its actually being threatened or exposed, and we don’t see the alien and becoming the person. This movie might be known for its effects, but there’s a lot of suspenseful sequences, one involving a blood test especially is a great example of suspense and shock. The ending is also haunting and fitting for the overall movie.

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There are some top-notch performances from the cast. The lead character is that of MacReady, who is brilliantly played by Kurt Russell, one of his best performances and roles. He is believable as a hardened but normal guy finding himself up against an all too real alien threat. The same goes for the rest of the cast, for what they lack in development, they still feel like real human beings stuck in a dangerous situation. Every character feels so lived in and shine with what they are given, really playing into the paranoia considerably well throughout. The script doesn’t delve into everyone’s backgrounds, but it does give each of these people their deserving moment.

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John Carpenter directs this movie, and this is some of his finest work. He is great with atmosphere in his movies, and The Thing is no exception. His use of the cold arctic landscape in this setting further emphasises the crew’s helplessness and isolation from the outside world. All the cinematography and production design are immaculate. There aren’t many jumpscares, but the ones that are here are done well. The Thing contains some of the most mindblowing and gruesome practical effects and makeup in a horror movie, and they hold up after nearly 40 years. The sound design is great, really putting you in the moments. The scores of John Carpenter’s movies are usually done by himself, this time it’s composed by Ennio Morricone. Despite this, it sounds exactly the way he would’ve score it, with simple synthesised tracks that help enhance the sinister mood of the movie. Incredibly simple yet effective.

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The Thing is fantastic and an absolute horror classic for so many reasons. Its script is finely tuned to near perfection, the characters are simple but given enough believability and are performed well, and John Carpenter’s direction is fantastic, making the film effectively suspenseful and unnerving from beginning to end. It is John Carpenter’s best film to date, and it has aged very well over the years. If you are a horror fan, definitely check out The Thing as soon as you can.

Scanners (1981) Review

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Scanners

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Horror scenes and violence
Cast:
Stephen Lack as Cameron Vale
Jennifer O’Neill as Kim Obrist
Patrick McGoohan as Dr. Paul Ruth
Lawrence Dane as Braedon Keller
Michael Ironside as Darryl Revok
Director: David Cronenberg

Dr Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) finds Vale (Stephen Lack), a powerful scanner, and uses him to stop Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), another powerful scanner who wants to form an alliance with others of his kind and dominate the world.

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I only knew a little bit about Scanners going in, just that it was another horror movie from David Cronenberg, and is the source of a certain famous head explosion scene. Honestly, I was quite surprised by the movie. It for sure has its problems but it was very entertaining.

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Cronenberg takes the time to establish this universe about Scanners, which are basically powerful telepaths. At its core, it is a corporate espionage film that happens to involve telepaths at the centre of it. It’s more of a sci-fi film than a horror movie, though I think it has enough horror elements that it can still be classified as such. It is entertaining and I was pretty interested throughout, although there were some moments across its 100 minute runtime that did lose me and I wasn’t as invested. The script doesn’t feel quite polished, it also feels very run of the mill, especially considering Cronenberg’s standards. This concept and blending of story elements was ahead of its time for sure, but I feel like it could’ve been better and explored further (not that I’m asking for a remake or anything). Now there is an exposition dump right at the end of the movie, while I usually don’t like exposition dumps in movies, I was alright with it here, although there was also some reveal in that act which I found rather pointless. On the whole though, I thought that the movie really shined in the climax.

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The weakest part of the movie was the characters and the actors. Stephen Lack plays the lead character and he was the weakest link in the cast. At times he gets away with it with such an intense stare when it comes to doing ‘scanning’, he seemed to have been deliberately chosen for this role for this reason. However he seems to suffer outside of those moments which don’t utilise that, especially when it comes to delivering lots of lines, his performance is quite bland and forgettable to say the least. Jennifer O’Neill gets the highest billing of the cast. She is introduced in the second act, her performance is alright but nothing special, she really doesn’t do much. Patrick McGoohan plays a doctor, essentially he is just there to give a lot of exposition throughout but he still works well even in that role. Michael Ironside is the standout in the cast and the movie as the villain. He really rides the line of being campy and over the top but still works out quite well, and was a very entertaining presence.

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David Cronenberg directs this well as to be expected. The body horror is there (Cronenberg also did that with The Fly and The Brood), though I was hoping for a little more horror than what was in the final film. The use of practical effects were great and creative, especially with the way that Cronenberg decided to portray telepathy in this movie. The aforementioned head explosion scene is still impressive to this day (if very over the top), though unfortunately there’s only one head that explodes in the movie. However thankfully it isn’t where the movie peaks with the impressive effects, there’s still a lot of other outstanding moments later in the movie. Howard Shore’s score is great and really works for this movie.

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Despite some issues, such as the so-so characters and acting (aside from Michael Ironside), Scanners is quite good. Cronenberg’s direction definitely elevated it, the script had me interested enough in what was happening, it’s well made and it was quite entertaining. Check it out, especially if you are a Cronenberg fan who hasn’t gotten around to this movie yet.