Horror

Funny Games

Image result for funny games movie posterListen, you get it. This is a horror game, so as soon as I post something not horror (below), I need to sandwich it so it looks like my tastes are diverse.
So today, we are taking it back to scary with Funny Games.

Before Michael Pitt shook his creep persona from Murder by Numbers and started stealing hearts and liquor as Jimmy Dormody, and before The Strangers was serving us creepy home invasion realness, there was Funny Games. (In fact, even 10 years before that, there was the original).

If you ask me, horror is mostly fun because it is gratuitous and unbeleivable.  But the home invasion sub-gendre scares me top to bottom for it’s ability to seem absolutely plausible.  Funny Games takes it even further by pulling this sh** in the daylight. *Full body shudder.*

Sadistic Peter and Paul come across the vacation home of a family of three, and take them hostage, forcing them to participate in twisted games.  The simplicity of this take on the invasion, paired with the sadistic games, daylight, and helplessness of a family not expecting such an attack makes this film so scary.  There is a sense of dread associated with not being prepared for the very simple attack of two unarmed intruders.

Intentionally or not, this serves up the psychotic scare reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, made more familiar in the psychos’ all white outfits and use of objects for beatings.

While not the penultimate home invasion movie, this certainly stirred up my own fear, and features great performances, including that of Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, masters of the creep, in protagonist positions.

Watch this whatever time of day you want, because it is not going to make daylight feel safe for you anyway.

Great if you liked: The Strangers, A Clockwork Orange, Copycat, Last House on the Left, Vacancy, The Collector, Panic Room, You’re Next, Cape Fear, Fatal Attraction

The Girl With All the Gifts

You’re kind of a film fan, right? So you’ve probably seen 28 Days Later?  And you remember that feeling you felt when you had stumbled across a lesser known foreign zombie flick and were like “hot dam.”  And on rainy days, scanning for something to do, you long for that feeling again, right?

I found that when I saw The Girl With All the Gifts.

This unsuspecting movie hit me totally by surprise.  It starts in some sort of military bunker where a a teacher is teaching to a group of young students who are strapped to their desks, glared at by seemingly disgusted soldiers.  It doesn’t rush to answer your questions, but it ultimately takes you on a ride through a post human universe where the children are the next mutation of a zombie virus which appears to have wiped out much of humanity.

Mike Carey, writer of both the inspiring novel and screenplay, brings his comic book sensibility to the big screen.  What is at its core a zombie film, reads more like the human panic of V for Vendetta, the confusion of mutation and technology of WE3 and the tests of humanity of The Walking Dead. (Comic book versions of all, to be clear).  It’s a story far deeper than your average “… of the Dead” flick, but doesn’t skimp on the snapping zombies.

I can’t say enough about this roller coaster through the not so distant future.  It’s acted so beautifully and is such a great take on the genre. You’ll also be pretty surprised by a lot of the cast.

A little birdie told me it is screening at The Royal in Toronto and I recommend you all check it out.

Great if you liked: The Walking Dead, V for Vendetta, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Morgan, Cloverfield, The Mist, Monsters

Sadako v Kayako

So people have been all abuzz about the release of Rings, the follow up we didn’t ask for, but all kind of wanted since The Ring totally changed the game for a lot of horror fans.  I remember when The Ring was in theaters, and my entire high school told their viewing stories as if we had all survived a natural disaster.  “J Horror” (Japanese horror) had made a big splash for Western cinema fans, and sparked remakes of plenty Japanese horror giants like The Grudge, Dark Water, and One Missed Call.

Much of J Horror focuses on these black haired crawling demons, like the ones we fell in love with in The Ring.  (A lot of them live in toilets… it’s weird).  I don’t mean to brag, but for the premiere, the city of Toronto was covered with locks of black hair and the demons were creepin’ all over.

For those of you who don’t follow along with the Japanese counterparts, the demon from The Ring (or Ringu, the J original), is known as Sadako, and the demon from The Grudge (or Ju-On) is known as Kayako.  So before you go flooding the seats to see the American follow up, check out this unreal death match of your two favourite J Horror demons, Sadako v Kayako.

After two girls accidentally stumble across the legendary Sadako tape, and another upon the Kayako house, they contact a demon expert to try and rid themselves of said demons.  After some failed attempts, they conclude the best method would be to have the demons face off against each other.  That’s pretty much all you need to know.

It’s actually pretty scary and doesn’t skip any J Horror tropes, but has a full heap of that dry horror humour that J Horror does so well.  It manages to be hilarious without being too campy, and is an absolutely unreal follow up for any casual J Horror fan, even if you’ve only seen the remakes.

The promo was for a new horror streaming service called Shudder.  This isn’t an ad for it, but it’s dope and maybe if they see this, they’ll give a girl a few months free, n’am sayin?

Great if you liked: The Ring, The Grudge, Ringu, Ju-On, Freddie vs. Jason, Sinister, Insidious, Death Note, Shaun of the Dead

Dead Set

So I have had Black Mirror teed up for a great TV edition for a while now, and, suddenly, to my delight, Netflix revived the British series and suddenly everyone is talking about and has seen the amazing sci-fi anthology series of which I can’t get enough.

Charlie Brooker is nothing short of brilliant in his anthology of short films about the dangers of technology.  So, what do I do now that it’s no longer the obscure?  Suggest to you an earlier Brooker work: Dead Set.

This 5 part series answers the hypothetical of what would happen in the Big Brother house if a zompocalypse happened.  (I know you’ve been wondering).

Dead Set has the grittiness and… Britishness… of 28 Days Later with the unpredictable story of the Big Brother house, which, honestly, seems like a pretty solid place to hole up. *Changes Zombie Apocalypse Contingency Plan*

It’s a really great addition to the zombie drama.  It’s also low key brilliant since the Big Brother house is likely populated by specifically selected characters to create big drama, kind of like the characters of movie would be, particularly in a zombie or cabin in the woods trope film.  So seeing the fictional cast of a would be reality show interact in an apocalypse is welcome and a lot of fun.

It’s also 5 episodes and one season which makes for a nice light binge without having to commit to 40 seasons of new zombie drama (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead).

Great if you liked: 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, The Walking Dead, Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Black Mirror, Big Brother

Trick ‘r Treat

First of all, Happy highest of the holidays, Halloween.
If you’re anything like me, you have been crushing horror all month long and are looking for an exciting finale.
I spent my weekend re-watching the Freddy franchise, and hitting up some new (pretty dope) horror with Oculus.
But tonight is the night for a lesser known hallo-flick, that is a certifiable cult classic, Trick ‘r Treat.

This bizarre anthology tells five interwoven stories of Halloween mayhem.  A couple face some fright after one disrespects the hallow-rules, a boring white collar moonlights as something more sinister, a group of gals hit the town looking for dates, some bullies get what’s coming and a living infamous man is tormented by the fan favourite “interwoven” demon.

It’s a bit gory, kinda scary, VERY Halloween-y, and full of laughs… if you’re morbid.  The fun part is that it is a laugh full of surprises, that are actually kind of scary.  To the point you can’t tell if you feel right having nightmares or not. You can also feel the cast having fun as their ‘psycho’ alter egoes.

It’s super weird and can sit right up there with other Halloween cult faves you’ve watched to death.  I’ve certainly added it to my October ritual. It WILL remind you to respect Halloween customs and it also contains one of the all time best werewolf transformations.

Excellent if you liked: Four Rooms, Krampus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Hocus Pocus, Gremlins, Vampire’s Suck, What We Do in the Shadows, Grindhouse, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn.

The Final Girls

Look, if you’re really looking towards full Hallowe’en horror, I don’t need to be the one to tell you to fire up “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”  (And if I do, please stop what you’re doing and marathon those real quick and then come on back.)

Since I expect you’ve already watched (and loved) those franchises in their entirety, I bring you the camp horror comedy that plays to my all time favourite trope, The Final Girls.

Carpenter’s original “Halloween,” is a horror ‘mother movie’ ™ that sparked an onslaught of horror franchises and the meta/camp ones that followed. (re: Scream).  On purpose or not, it created the trope of the final girl; the, often ‘virginal,’ girl who outlasts everyone and comes up against the slashing killer in one climactic stand off.

The Final Girls uses this trope, among others, to give us a comedic camp horror film filled to the brim with heart.

Max loses her mom, Amanda, at a young age.  Amanda is famous for playing a cult classic scream queen named Nancy. (Nancy.  Guys.).  Every year, the local theater screens the cult classic, and Max struggles with it and the memory of her mother.

While in attendance at the screening, Max and her friends somehow end up in the move (read: Last Action Hero), surrounded by your horror movie tropes, and the final girl, Nancy.  Max and her friends have to team up with the characters to defeat the weapon wielding slasher and end the film.

While it spreads across much of the genre, this film feels the most like Friday the 13th complete with a Jason style killer.  It let’s the characters take back their tropes as a means of surviving to the end of the film.  The slutty chick who gets killed whilst being slutty? Taken back by Angela Trimbur, who, upon learning of her part, gives an amazing performance in the way of a sacrificial sexy strip tease to lure the killer to the campers.  (Her dance is unbelievable, and arguably feminist in her taking back her sexuality as a means of tackling the killer, over a character being reduced to an over-sexualized victim).

The Final Girls is a fun romp for all horror fans, is heartbreaking, is moving, is cute, is hilarious, and is kinda scary.  No doubt the medicine for the genre fan who’s seen it all.

Great if you liked: Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Guest, Green Room, Grindhouse, Last Action Hero

Monsters

I was lucky enough to catch this one on TV so long ago.  It always stuck with me, yet I never remembered enough about it to find it again.  It wasn’t until Batman v Superman when I recognized Scott McNairy as Wallace Keefe that I was just an imdb rabbit hole away from finding this gem.  (At least something good came out of that movie, ammiright, people?)

Monsters is one of the few sci-fi/ horror films to take place AFTER the planet changing event and show life on earth in the aftermath. (Think District 9 or 28 Weeks Later).  It has the creepy vibe of movies like The Mist and Signs, only it’s actually good. (Ammiright, people?)

After a probe sent to collect samples of extraterrestrial life crash lands between the US and Mexico, an outbreak of “creatures” spreads through a land mass between the two countries.  The area is surrounded and labeled the “infected zone” where few would dare set foot.  The zone is surrounded by military and filled with citizens refusing to leave their homes behind.  Andrew, a photographer looking to document the infection, is tasked with bringing his publication owner’s daughter home from Mexico.  After some unfortunate events, Andrew and Sam are unable to pass safely to the US and must cross through the infected zone to get home.

What is really cool about this movie is the realistic view of humanity in a universe where an alien creature has taken over part of their land.  The citizens living in a war zone are all too reminiscent of… real citizens living in real war zones.  Andrew, as a member of the media, acts for the viewer in questioning why these people would behave as they do and brave what they have. It paints a seemingly realistic picture of a war torn or “infected zone” in reality. Andrew and Sam act as the sheltered Americans who see the real fear on TV and prepare to return to their lives in their suburban homes and real life relationships after braving a real life conflict.

I’ll note, this isn’t the aliens vs humans war movie the trailer makes it appear.  It is much more about the human condition.  But also we see a lot of aliens which is dope.

Great if you liked: District 9, War of the Worlds, The Mist, Signs, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later

The Midnight Meat Train

Guys, it’s October.  SamHain.  The month of Hallowe’en when I go from regular person to a witchy woman. (Oooh oooh, witchay woman).

Despite being a lover of all things Summer, I embrace the season of spiced scents, burgundy lipstick, ankle boots and blood spilling horror.

Now bear will me on this one.  It’s 2016 and, save for the ever popular SAW franchise, there has not been a focus on gore.  We are in the age of demon horror, jump scares, found footage and, of course, zombies.  But what I wanted to start my October postings was some unseen pure gore.

I don’t usually lean towards gore as I often find it more laugh inducing than terrifying.  But, what the hell, it’s mid October.

2008’s The Midnight Meat Train seems to have struck with this relatively star riddled cast before they were… huge stars? Bradley Cooper (when he was still the bit player coming off Wedding Crashers, and before The Hangover skyrocketed him into familiarity) stars as Leon, a photographer challenged (by a character played by Brooke Shields) to push harder on his images of the city to capture the real grit.  In doing so, Leon stumbles across a sinister ring which employs a butcher to capture and mutilate late night subway riders.

Look.  This film is ripe with continuity errors.  The characters behave in a frustrating way.  The acting? The drama? Oh boy.   There’s even a completely uncalled for rough sex scene awkwardly paired with a piano ballad.  BUT this is gore, ladies and gentlemen.  This is the post 2005 blood spilling you’re dreaming of. I mean, Vinnie Jones plays a human butcher named “Mahogany.” What else do you want from me?

So strap in for some nightmares about slipping in pools of blood and enjoy this seldom seen new gore.

Bonus round, this is adapted from a short story by legendary horror writer, Clive Barker, who brought us such nightmares as Hellraiser and Candyman.

Great if you liked Hellraiser, Candyman, Ichi the Killer, Audition, Night Train, Saw, Vacancy, The Collector, Hostel

The Guest

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I have been on quite a classic horror binge as of late, which is a great way to remind myself of all of the amazing tropes parodied by my favourite genre: modern camp horror.

Few have done camp horror quite as well as Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the writer director duo behind The Guest.

Coming off the success of their sleeper hit, You’re Next, the duo took their new found big budget and turned it into the camp horror dreams were made of (and then sprinkled in a bunch of action).

Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) stars as “David,” a soldier returning from active duty and visiting the family of his fallen platoon member.  The Peterson family invites David to stay with them for a few days, where slowly his strange behaviour begins to show its face, mostly to the daughter, a teenage waitress forced to have David tag-a-long in her day to day life as a social high schooler.

This flick dives so far into awesome camp that it is mashing of two of my all time favourite films, Terminator 2 and Halloween, which is somehow also funny, and goes next level into some Jason Bourne, and German Sci Fi places.

Every detail makes this film fun, from the classic 80’s style euro synth music, to the long shots of solo characters.  You won’t know whether to love or hate David, but you’ll definitely want to recycle some of his lines to sound cool (re: ‘cash is easy to get’ and ‘awesome’).  It’s also a great spot for Maika Monroe who is quickly making her name as the Scream Queen of the Y generation.

Great if you liked: You’re Next, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, It Follows, The Final Girls, V/H/S, Rec, The Strangers, Terminator, Terminator 2

What We Do in the Shadows

The brilliant mockumentary, What we Do in the Shadows, takes “dry humour” to the next level.

Vladislav, Viago, Deacon and Petyr are relic vampires living in a vampire nest… ehrrmmm… as modern day roommates.

The four deal with issues like, who’s responsibility is it to do the dishes? How will we pay rent? And where will we hide the bodies of these people we just sucked dry?

It’s an unreal dichotomy of “totally over the top” and “cracklingly dry” humour.

You’ll recognize Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Concords and MIB3.  He kills it as Vladislav, and over the top vamp stuck in his old horror ways.  Taika Waititi steals the show as Viago trying to mediate between roommates, and appease the ancient Petyr. (Jemaine and Taika also wrote and directed, in case you weren’t yet sold).

This flick is totally original and so much fun.

Loved it? Great news!! Recent rumour has it there is going to be a werewolf sequel.

Great if you liked: Flight of the Concords, This is Spinal Tap, The Office