Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horror. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Courtney Gets Possessed (2023)

In Sickness and In Hell.”
Melting ice sculptures. Sibling rivalries. A mother’s cringe-worthy honeymoon advice. Plenty of mishaps can and will throw off a bride’s special day. Perhaps nothing more can cause such damage than when an ex-flame shows up out of nowhere and that ex just happens to be….Dave. Also known as Satan.

The horror of tying the knot has never been so much fun than in director and writer combo Jono Mitchell and Madison Hatfield’s latest film Courtney Gets Possessed.

When soon-to-be-newlywed Courtney (Lauren Bugioli) becomes possessed by Dave (Jonathon Pawlowski), her bridal party – including type A maid of honor Lexi (Aditi George), jealous sister Caitlin (Madison Hatfield), and groom’s disapproving sister Jasmine (Najah Bradley) – race to exorcise Dave out of the picture for good before he makes their beloved friend tie the cursed knot for all eternity.

Following in the footsteps of famed classic The Exorcism and hit-comedy Bridesmaids, Mitchell and Hatfield captures both the anticipation and joy of such an occasion as a wedding. Using a limited setting in the characters’ main home, there’s tremendous attention to detail with the production from the neon lighting design that evokes both hell and a rave to the 80s synth theme score composed by Jordan Benett. The film manages to break the limitations of independent features to capture the essence of major studio flick – it never feels entirely claustrophobic with clever cinematography by Brett A. Frager that moves the story forward from room to room. 

As the panicked attendees take the DIY approach to get their friend back, the direction paces the unexpected bloodshed with wry humor. When a large ensemble shares sufficient scream-time and mic-drop jokes, many films stumble in losing sight of the story to capture all of the players at work and vice versa. In contrast, Courtney Gets Possessed allows Bugioli to offer a stellar leading performance with a double-take between Courtney and as Dave, but never dilutes the supporting cast into mere reinforcements. Each character leads as a star in their own right – Madison Hatfield masking Caitlin’s sarcasm with self-doubt and envy, Jonathon Pawlowski’s mischievous devilry as Dave/Satan, Najah Bradley’s Jasmine heartfelt protectiveness over her brother and charismatic bait Zae Jordan Glen, Aditi George’s spinning Lexi’s perfectionism into nerdy endearment, Steve Reddington’s blusters of expletives will live in my head rent-free – to name a few. It's difficult to point out one performance over another, speaking to how evenly focused the directors were to both the plot and characters.

Performing a cover of boy band hits and delving into sibling rivalries while performing a How To: Exorcise The Devil can only be carried on with verve if trust is infused by the directors and carried on by the actors. As the characters feel the pressure to save Courtney while peeking at the Prince of Darkness’s Wikipedia and throwing together impromptu internet-ordained exorcisms, Hatfield and Mitchell maintain a steady confidence over their inspiration from cinema and wedding season. While there are notable homages and nods to classic demonic possession movies, the duo at the helm put their own confident stamp on both comedy and horror. Even though every day is a good day for an exorcism for some – for others, not so much. But Courtney Gets Possessed certainly makes a must-watch good case for it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Note: I was provided with a screener to provide this review. Be sure to check out Courtney Gets Possessed - available on digital and demand November 3rd.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Nope (2022)

The muddled execution of Us didn't make me question what Jordan Peele could do next. He's only three films into his career, and doing all right for himself despite the divisiveness surrounding his last film. Still, with so little time to prepare my hype in these 'The Myans Were Wrong' times, Peele has regained stride from Get Out . 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Relic (2020) Adds A New Twist to 'Haunted House' Classics

Relic Movie Review

Age creeps up on us steadily. One second we're young and free, and the next we're burdened with too many responsibilities or we don't want to be a burden to our loved ones. What becomes of us when we age and those around us is at the heart of Relic - a horror film that makes us come face-to-face with the shock, confusion, and (hopefully) understanding aging inevitably causes.

After their grandmother Edna (Robyn Nevin) is reported missing, her daughter and granddaughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote) journeys to her house to find out what happened and discover signs of disarray that makes them realize how severely she's been struggling on her own. When Edna mysteriously re-appears as if nothing happened, her erratic behavior forces them to realize there might be more to her dementia than meets the eye.

Friday, March 13, 2020

(M.O.M.) Mothers of Monsters (2020) Compels Us To Question A Mother's Love

One of the scariest crossroads a parent can imagine is their children heading towards a destructive path where they want to cause themselves or others harm. What’s worse is when their child exhibits violent tendencies, but they aren't able to seek proper help and are left to their own devices. Tapping into the dysfunctional relationship between a mother and son, as well as the violence springing from young adults today, M.O.M. (Mothers of Monsters) tackles mother’s intuition and societal paranoia.

Concerned mother Abbey (Melinda Page Hamilton) has recognized a pattern of mental health issues with her son Jacob (Bailey Edwards) since he was a young boy. Having grown up as a teenager with an obsession for video games and Nazi paraphernalia, Abbey now questions whether her son is planning an attack on his school. Left to take matters into her own hands, Abbey rigs their house with an elaborate surveillance system in the hope of helping other mothers recognize the warning signs.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Let's Go To There: Halloween Horror Nights 2019

Halloween Horror Nights 2019
When Halloween comes around, it's time go to Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights.

This year, my sister and I snagged Frequent Fear Passes. Instead of packing all of Universe Orlando's haunted houses into one night, we attended the event over and over again to face our fears (and there were quite a few of them). It's been a real treat to scream our hearts out over and over again.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Book VS Movie: Beverly Marsh

Stephen King has created quite a few memorable female roles – an author's obsessive admirer in Misery, the telekinetic outcast in Carrie, and of course, Beverly Marsh in IT. With Andy Muschietti’s reboot of King’s novel and the reemergence of The Losers Club, I thought it’d be fun to talk about how close the character of Beverly Marsh manages to be different and similar between the book and duo-logy.

This post talks about topics related to Beverly's arc in the book and movie including abuse, sexual violence, and puberty. Read at your own risk.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Love / Hate Relationship With It: Chapter Two (2019)

Warner Bros. Pictures
It's been two years since director Andy Muschietti's adapation of IT took the horror genre by storm. Fans have been craving, dreaming, and waiting for the second half of Stephen King's novel to finally wrap up The Losers Club's battle against Pennywise. In a weird twist of fate, the sequel combines enough elements from the book to be a faithful adaptation, but doesn't organize it enough to feel like a satisfying final chapter.

This review contains spoilers and flashing gifs- read at your own risk!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Us (2019) Works Best in Fragments But Not As A Whole

Us movie review
Universal Pictures
In 2017, Jordan Peele made the unforgettable switch as a comedy veteran to masterful horror director. His debut film Get Out stunned audiences with complex storytelling, attention to detail, and ability to set an allegory of the real world into the horror scene. While it’s natural to expect just as much from him for his next film, Us turned out to be a lukewarm experience in its story and script. Much of it works on paper, but what's presented on screen leaves as many open-ended questions as it answers.

The Wilson family – Adelaide (Lupita N’Yongo), Gabe (Winston Duke), Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) - venture to a lake house near Santa Cruz for a fun vacation. Their harmless trip to the beach turns deadly when mysterious clones emerge around the country to hunt their other halves down. A traumatic event from Adelaide’s past, where she encountered her own doppelganger, brings back haunting memories, but they also might be the key to their survival.

If you haven't seen Us, read at your own risk. This post contains spoilers!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Let's Go To There: Halloween Horror Nights 2018

Halloween Horror Nights 2018 Universal Orlando
Every autumn Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood transforms its theme parks under the cover of darkness into scare zones and themed houses. This year, Stranger Things, Poltergeist, Halloween 4, and The Purge were just some of the iconic movies and shows to arrive at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando Resort.

To be honest, I'm not an avid horror fan, but I like the occasional scare. When my sister and I saw the line-up of houses for this year's HHN, we cast our fears aside to celebrate Halloween a little differently this year. Because it caters to all kinds of fans (mostly 18+) who love to get more than a little freaked out, the event turned out to be perfect for me and my sister to attend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Quiet Place (2018) rings in another exciting wave of terror

Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night
Platinum Dunes / Sunday Night
For the past few years nailbiting and bloodcurdling movies like The Witch, It, and Get Out have reinvigorated the horror genre. Though it's never been a favorite of mine, the latest suspenseful flick A Quiet Place's continues to make you think twice about where the genre will take us next.

This review contains spoilers - please read at your own risk.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

mother! (2017) sinks under its own ambition

Photo Credit: mother! / Paramount Pictures
It's difficult to have survived 2017 without hearing of mother!, a movie drawing critical acclaim as a masterpiece to Worst Movie of the Century. Often layered with symbolism and metaphors, director Darren Aronofsky doesn't err on the side of caution. Completely untamed, here he strives to weave a story about humanity, God, and mother nature (my interpretation at least) that's less worthy of the title's exclamation point and more of a question mark that fails makes waves.

mother (Jennifer Lawrence) is rebuilding a beautiful house as her poet husband Him (Javier Bardem) struggles to find his next big inspiration. As she strives to make a paradise for him and satiate his zapped creative energy, nothing seems to be good enough - her devotion, attention, love, and care. When strangers visit in the middle of the night inviting war, barbarism, and a cultlike devotion, Him and their unwanted guests bring with them the end of the world as she knows it.

Dubbed as a psychological thriller, even a horror film, Aronofsky threads a foreboding sense of genuine suspense in the beginning. Utilizing a script he wrote in five days, Aronofsky impressively packs in a lot of detail in a short amount of time. When the story strictly centered on mother's dynamics with the house, Him and his consuming attention he feeds off of their visitors, the story looms with confusion and anxiety: Who are these people? Why is Him so attracted to them so easily? What makes mother so apprehensive to their presence? But as the story moves further into the second and last act, Aronofsky adaptating the characters into bigger ideas (Him as God, mother as mother nature, the first two strangers as Adam and Eve) escalates to the point where you stop wondering what point he's trying to make and start questioning what the heck you're watching at all.

Blurring the line between interesting easter eggs, and plastering biblical references at every turn, Aronofsky succeeds better when he isn't trying so hard. mother, anthropomorphized by Jennifer Lawrence, dresses in fine, earthy clothes, and flints between being confused, horrified, or physically abused to the point of no return all in the name of her selflessness to provide for others. Him is obsessed with creation and validation by the masses, of which both will eventually become greedy and consumed by their own egos. In trying to mix the characters in with the setting, mother's house, aka Earth, polluted on, flooded, has blood spilt on it (to say the least), there isn't a specific focus with any one of the messages he's trying to tell: the muse and the arrogant artist, our unrealized fears about the environment and how we treat it before there's no going back, or the pain people inflict upon each other in the name of something higher. There's so little intrigue infused into the story at the halfway mark but so much going on on the surface, Aronofsky's ideas are actually rather thin.

mother! isn't meant to be a horror film in the sense of typical crime dramas or the supernatural haunting the living. The film is meant for us to consider climate change and how we treat mother nature as if she was a person. But Aronofsky throws so much at the wall, his real message doesn't necessarily stick, unless one wants to sink down into the allegorical rabbit hole. Throughout all of the chaos and heavy-handed symbolism, there's no real thrilling or lasting aspect to Aronofsky's or Him's madness. Which leaves the film with an unapologetic graphic violence without a consistent tone or message, so much so that its shock value loses any deeper meaning he started out with.

To helm his absolute rollercoaster, Lawrence's commitment to her director's vision is palpable, and it might be the best performance of her career since Winter's Bone, but even then, it's bothersome that her contrasting perspective and judgement of mother seeps into the role at times and loses the essential connection one needs to have because the film is from her point-of-view. Her supporting cast doesn't fare much better: Javier Bardem feels out of place as the other lead, while Michelle Pfieffer, Ed Harris, and the Gleeson brothers are in the most intriguing part of the movie, they are also unmemorable.

Technically, there are things about this that are a marvel. Its sound design by Jóhann Jóhannsson is brilliant, having no instrumental or lyrical soundtrack to set the pace. The camerawork focuses on its lead Jennifer Lawrence for a good 66 minutes of 121 minutes, of which the cinematography had to be in sync with the actress. It's also stunning how they staged the action inside the house with everything from raves and dinner parties to hostage situations, cults, and warzones.

Sometimes one movie is the culmination of everything a director has been building for their entire career. Usually, I'd feel excited about this kind of boldness, to take motifs, common plots, and techniques over the years to deliver something that beats out their previous work. Instead mother! feels wildly forgettable, perhaps something Aronofsky needed to get off of his shoulders, and only a select few are going to stand by what he wanted to say. His latest obsession is a mishmash of what makes him known as a controversial auteur, only this time if he wanted to go for shock value, he should've gone back to the drawing board too.

Have you seen mother! What did you think?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Cousin Rachel (2017) is the Victorian-horror-romance we need

My Cousin Rachel 2017 Movie Review
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Based on the novel by Daphne DuMaurier, director Roger Michell creates a spellbinding Gothic horror that fits our every period-drama need. In the beginning, the story seems like an open-and-close of murder, but languidly turns into a tale between an unreliable narrator and a Victorian femme-fatale.

Observing from afar, a young man Phillip (Sam Claflin) becomes suspicious about the torrid affair between his cousin Ambrose and companion Rachel (Rachel Weisz). When his revered fatherly figure dies rather quickly and under mysterious circumstances, Phillip declares justice for his loss but instead finds himself down a path Ambrose took: falling under her spell.

So rarely does a Gothic horror movie plant a very simple idea in our heads, but My Cousin Rachel sparks us to ask did she or didn't she, and then makes us question our choice every step of the way.

From the beginning, Phillip's beliefs about her guilt and wanting to make her pay for his relative's death is easy to side with. What he knows or assumes about Rachel from his loved one's letters about her as a "torment" and his worsening his health is all we need to believe she may be guilty too. When she shows up on his doorstep, her compelling presence, only wanting the best of everything for him, makes it difficult to gauge whether she's working his emotions to her own benefit or if she's as innocent as she could be. Lacking in any romantic relationships himself, he's overwhelmed by her femininity and prowess, easily squashing the vengeance he held so firmly. But as Phillip grows increasingly obsessed with his newfound love, nearly vying for ownership over her, it becomes harder to see Rachel as a murderess casting revenge, and more of a free spirit not wanting to be possessed by anyone; unfortunately, caged in by societal rules.

One thing is almost certain: their love affair will end in catastrophe, but along the way, the story asks who the culprit is. The story starts out concerned if Rachel murdered Ambrose, and slowly begins mirroring a possibility of how their relationship grew troublesome. At once Phillip and Rachel can be hopeful, joyous, and splendidly over the moon about each other, but then on a dime turns extraordinarily spiteful and malicious. At every turn, Rachel never escapes the unyielding paranoia Phillip has cast on her, or she cast on herself. For both of them, the question we started out with of who killed Ambrose turns into who is the victim and the manipulator.

To make this work, the leads had to be very special. From big adaptations The Hunger Games and Me Before You to smaller productions like Their Finest, Sam Claflin rarely does no-wrong. Phillip required someone who was dashing and broken, skeptical and selfish, and Claflin offers everything his character needs to believe in his convictions whether they're wrong or right. To build his downfalls, by the same token, Rachel Weisz captures an enigmatic spirit for Rachel. In no time at all, one can't help but be warmed by her spirits, sympathetic of the quickly forgotten notion that she too lost Ambrose, guilty for casting her innocence aside too soon, but also left questioning her intentions. Throughout her career Weisz's managed a myriad of complex roles, slipping under the radar as one of the best actresses in Meryl Streep's league. Together, they make an hypnotic, complicated duo.

Melding the story and performances with the direction and stunning cinematography, My Cousin Rachel adequately fills every gothic-romance fanatics's needs. If a scene is cast in a meadow, one can't help but feel the breeze and freedom the outdoor gives. When set inside the house, it's quaint by claustrophobic. Every frame evokes that moody, unrequited stay in a haunted house waiting for the skeletons to come out of the closet. As an author DuMaurier has always been ample material for Hitchcockian-like films, and Roger Mitchell rekindling one of her stories delivers the ambiguity she delved into to make a visually and emotionally pleasing puzzle.

My Cousin Rachel proves to be a compelling mystery, a rare chameleon as a whirlwind love affair, and an identity crises for its leads. Thriving on paranoia, the who-dun-it elements work seamlessly for a first viewing, and subsequently inspire you to seek what you might've missed before. Aided by fascinating actors, a capable script, and beautiful cinematography, the movie dispenses a daunting ballad of horror and romance.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen My Cousin Rachel?
What did you think?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wonder Women: Lisa Freemont in Rear Window (1964)

When one thinks about the intriguing elements of Alfred Hitchcock's filmography, the abundance of "icy blondes" he utilized throughout his career is hard to ignore. He worked with a myriad of starlets like Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh, and Kim Novak, establishing them as femme fatales and victims on-screen. In celebrating Halloween by watching Rear Window, Grace Kelly's role as Lisa Freemont felt like a great character to highlight for my Wonder Women series.

Elegant and tenacious Grace Kelly dazzles in the classic thriller about an injured photographer L.B "Jeff" Jeffries (played by James Stewart) who's cocooned in his apartment and starts spying on his neighbors. Getting caught up in their own imaginations and theories, they suspect a grizzly murdered took place just across the street and try to prove their accusations to the authorities.

Throughout his career Hitchcock examined the themes of a seemingly perfect crime, and the morals that came along with the act in question. Like similar suspenseful films Marnie, Vertigo and Dial M for Murder, he also dabbled in the complications of marriage, singlehood, and the sexual tension between men and women. More prominently Rear Window, a tale of voyeurism and murder, offers a switch of gender roles where its independent and undaunted leading lady becomes the hero.

Monday, October 19, 2015

28 Days Later (2002) brilliantly infects the zombie genre

28 Days Later movie review
Photo Credit: 28 Days Later / Fox Searchlight Pictures
Zombies are "in" right now, thanks to mega-popular comic book/tv series The Walking Dead and films like Shaun of the Dead. In 2002, the undead was just coming back onto the scene thanks to a revitalizing spin from director Danny Boyle,

28 Days Later isn't exactly about an undead apocalypse. A virus causing a violent rage unleashes when an animal-rights groups' mission to rescue lab-tested monkeys fails. People don't die and come back as zombies though, as is the lore of the genre. The rampant disease spreads when uninfected humans come in contact with the carriers with contaminated blood or saliva. Instead the infected become animalistic having no conscious and are ignited with a bloodthirsty rage, but aren't technically flesh-eaters.

Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital smack dab in the middle of the post-apocalypse. The streets are barren, the government has fallen, and the world appears to have emptied of any human contact - except for a stubborn and headstrong survivor Selena (Naomie Harris), and a father-daughter duo Frank and Hannah. Jim quickly learns the rules to surviving. If you are bitten, you're less than a few heartbeats from becoming one of them. Unless you've got no other choice: don't go anywhere alone and only in daylight.

Unlike the carnivorous savages people turn into once they are infected, the film itself doesn't try to be downright horrifying, but it definitely is. The opening scenes of Jim waking up to an isolated and unaware of the desecrated world, walking around a deserted London, is enough to put anyone on edge. Most of the film isn't out to make you jump from your seat but has the power of making you question what people are capable of when the end of days has arrived.

Jim (and his partnership to Selena) is one of the best and most hopeful dynamics of the story. The rules of civility changed the second he woke up from his coma and he has no other choice or chance but to commit to his and hers survival. He struggles to hold onto his old self but has to face the risk of becoming barbarous to stay alive. Though made to look physically shriveled and weak, Cillian Murphy is simply enigmatic. He's frail physically and emotionally, but he has a capability to make you feel like there's still a fire burning inside him somewhere.

Selena, played by the awesome Naomie Harris, is refreshing as a female character overall. Having endured loss and adapted to the eye-for-an-eye lifestyle she's been forced into, she is stubborn and pragmatic. She doesn't put up with any threats that might kill her - not even Jim at some instances. But, she isn't just kick-ass, or defensive, or holding on the edge of her rope; she's also vulnerable in taking a chance on Jim and what their life can be like in the post-apocalypse.

Acquiring shelter, food, and protection is one way to keep breathing one more day, but re-establishing normalcy and finding your family might be the best way to persevere. Their union makes us question if you have to turn into an animal because of other shady survivors and the "undead".

Boyle's film is not necessarily gory, but it's still unsettling because of his examination: the many ways humankind degrades when faced with a societal fall like this; what the fear of a disease will turn people into. This is a limited-character drama told with a rock anthem of survival. A grungy, urban violence is its setting, obviously devastating and gritty. Through a steady momentum of thrills, the film has pausing moments of poetry and hope of the future. Despite how many threats, both human and non-human, ravages what's left of civilization, there is still glimmers of benevolence, love, and generosity left. The characters just have to hang tight on, day by day.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen 28 Days Later? What do you think?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Horror Movie Survival Kit Inspired by ManCrate

Halloween is the perfect time of year to watch scary movies. A group of high school students are attacked by Ghost Face. A hotel won't let you leave one of its rooms. A family won't leave the house they just bought, even though it's filled with poltergeists or ghosts. As we watch in terror as characters try to evade their serial killers or phantom hosts, at times don't we all think we have what it takes to survive a horror movie?

Well, we're in luck! ManCrates focuses on creating awesome gifts for men in custom wooden crates that he has to open with a crowbar. In celebration of the Halloween season, the awesome people at ManCrates asked me to come up with what I would want in my own dream crate that would help me and others make it to the end credits of a horror flick.

There are a few obvious essentials to surviving a horror movie like being familiar with the commandments and carrying a few in-case-of-emergency aids (flashlight, phone chargers, etc). When we're caught in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, or are pitted against vampires, it's best that we are prepared for anything. Here is a list of tools I thought would be awesome for a Horror Movie Survival Kit. Enjoy!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Blockbusted Blogathon: The Haunting (1999)

The Haunting 1999 Remake movie review
My weekends are often filled with the happy voluntary indulgence of watching blockbusters - Speed, Twister, Poseidon - and the list goes on and on. Across the board online is a movie that earns not one but three worst movie accolades; remake, horror film, and book adaptation. In terms of fulfilling a guilty pleasure, let's talk, rave, and analyse the insanely-awful movie The Haunting (1999).

As the story goes: Eleanor “Nell” Vance (Lily Taylor) has a terrible string of bad luck and arseholes ruling her life. After caring for her invalid mother for eleven years in a rundown Boston apartment, her sister and boyfriend evict Nell from her home via her mother's last wishes. Nell receives a phone call to participate in a sleep research study helmed by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson) in an isolated mansion on Hill House. She uses her newfound "freedom" and nightmares as a means for escape to join the experiment. Once all have arrived at the manor - Marrow and fellow participants Luke Sanderson (Owen Wilson) and Theodora (Catherine Zeta-Jones) - they're cut off from the bordering town and the house soon shows its true horrifying colors.

Honestly, they are horrifying - not in the sense of the movie being scary. Two key ingredients of horrible films are plotholes and/or unrealistic plot circumstances. While offeringcheesy moments of suspense such as unexplained drastic temperature changes, constant conviction by the main character that she is seeing ghosts, and scenes of waiting to see what's lurking behind the corner to make you jump, The Haunting is all but laughable - probably one of the only reasons I watch it; to revel in its bombastic storytelling.