He’s Out There (2018): Horror / Thriller

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A family vacation at a lakehouse becomes a nightmare for a mother and her two young daughters who become part of a psychopath’s deranged fantasy.

The oversaturation got me thinking from the opening shot. “Is there a purpose”? “What does this DOP offer to the story”? Anyway, the story itself showed signs of unoriginality since the early stages. The journey started, they made it to the house and, thankfully, the tension started building up and becoming interesting. And then, the uncreativeness came back stronger and ruined the film with tons of cliches and a high level of improbability.

Yvonne Strahovski has proven to be a versatile actress with tremendous potential. Even in a film like “He’s Out There”, she’s very convincing and she was the only reason I watched the film. Anna and Abigail Pniowski are not to blame for their performances here. This burdens solely the director.

Shame really as the potential was there. “Old wine in a new bottle” doesn’t mean to copy randomly (and badly) existing, successful styles, mix them up and paste them in a new movie.

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Found Footage: Chronicles of Horror, Realism, and Case Studies

“The World of Apu”

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on the origins, the decades of contestation, the development and expansion, the impact, and the current status of the found footage horror subgenre. I hope you enjoy the ride.

http://theworldofapu.com/found-footage-chronicles-of-horror-realism-and-case-studies/

 

Overlord (2018): Action / Adventure / Horror

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An American airborne unit lands on Nazi-occupied France only to discover a horror beyond the Nazis.

Brutal, savage, and sadistic, “Overlord”, keeps you on the edge of your seat. If there is anything worse than the Nazis, that is the realization of their twisted psychosis. Focusing on “Operation Overlord”, an operation that took place in parallel with “Operation Neptune” (both of them put together became known as D-Day), J.J. Abrams produces Julius Avery’s historical horror where “Band of Brothers” (2001) meets the “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).

Strong first act with an even stronger opening sequence, practical visual effects that beat CGI every single time, and acting that makes its implausibility easy to swallow. Is it flawless? Nope. Is it to be taken seriously? Not really. Does one forget their problems for almost two hours and get sucked in? Hell. Yeah.

A lot of unnecessary negativity surrounds the film but people tend to oversee sometimes why a film could have possibly been made, the purpose it might serve, and the unpredictable outcome an experimental genre mixture may have.

I’ve said this before, I’m saying it again, and I will keep on saying it: I don’t aim at the film but the intentions behind it.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019): Horror / Mystery / Thriller

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Hauntingly dark and beautiful drawings are found at a dead man’s apartment and upon their unlawful exhibition for personal profit, a price for greed comes along.

Fancy words, filthy words, art critique jargon, shiny dress code, and over the top personalities, to name but a few, characterise a snotty world that most of you, and most certainly myself, have never visited and probably never will. Hard to tell where writer/director Dan Gilroy stands and how he feels about this world he brilliantly depicts or why he chose such a sexual term for a title and that is pure magic.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, and last but not least, John Malkovich give Gilroy’s surrealistic world flesh and blood and don’t hesitate to blow their performances out of proportion.

Gilroy was asked about the meaning of his film and in a cryptic manner, he responded that he would like people to perceive art differently. As we have proved time and time again that we can be a horrible species, I would say that I see where he is coming from and I’ll throw in my two cents. Instead of truly trying to appreciate and see art through the artists’ eyes, we make it all about ourselves, either by showing up at an illustrious museum just to be seen there or by benefiting from someone else’s expression. How? Most likely by fancily writing about it so we can look knowledgeable and special or by monetising it, upgrading our status at the same time. One way or another, we purely exploit it and try to hide the fact that we couldn’t do it ourselves.

Meaning aside and changing the subject, having watched numerous Netflix productions, once again, I would like to throw in my two cents. I think there is a resounding statement here that has been repeatedly given for quite a while now. By Netflix. “We don’t give a s#@% !!! Is your film thought-provoking? We’ll make it! Is it bizarre? Bring it! Is it something no one wants to produce? We will! We don’t give a s#@% which festivals accept our submissions! We couldn’t care less which studios alleviate our success! We spend billions and we make even more! And we do everything! We just… Don’t. Give. A. S%#@.

It Comes at Night (2017): Horror / Mystery

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A dark, malevolent threat has plagued the world and a man with his wife and son, barricaded into their house living under strict rules, are challenged by a young family seeking refuge.

Post-apocalyptic, slow burn and edgy at the same time, “It Comes at Night” plants the seed of doubt, of what is really happening in the world, who is to be trusted and who isn’t, who is indeed carrying the infectious disease, and who has sunk into paranoia…

A psychological horror by Trey Edward Shults, with no cheap jump-scares, formulaic way of writing, standard character development, spoon-fed answers to epidermic questions, and Hollywood-like utterances, actions, and reactions. There are plenty of films like that out there but this is not one of them. You’ve been warned, proceed with caution. And if the story doesn’t really terrify you, the astonishing performances of Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. definitely will.

It’s really hard to analyse it, even briefly, without giving anything away so, I’ll try to draw a picture for you. Think of it as a parable. As a symbolic interpretation of four major “entities”: the fortified house, the infected outside world, the family living under an uncompromising domestic order, and the night itself. Try to place them accordingly as the story, admittedly, slowly unfolds and only then ask yourselves…

What is it that comes at night? And why?

Butterfly Kisses (2018): Documentary / Horror

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A filmmaker puts together a bunch of old tapes he found in a basement that belonged to two students and does a documentary on them and their research on an urban legend called Peeping Tom.

Erik Kristopher Myers writes, directs, and takes to the next level a “found footage” horror on a story that we have watched before but he is doing it his way. As the late Wes Craven did in 1996 with “Scream”, Myers puts under the microscope and questions the cinematic taboos that regulate the subgenre:

  • Using handheld shots, he avoids and criticises the nauseous shaky camera.
  • He shows an understanding and endorses the public’s reaction towards something they don’t understand doing what Doubting Thomas did in the Bible.
  • He, somehow, manages to market his film on IMDb as documentary/horror with certain characters portraying allegedly themselves.
  • He adds extra layers and depth by jumping onboard himself making a film on a documentary that researches a documentary on a student project (very “Inception”).
  • Last but not least, among others, he interviews Matt Lake and Eduardo Sanchez; author of Weird Maryland and writer/director of Blair Witch Project respectively, deconstructing the “found footage” and urban legends.

Don’t try straight away to focus on or attack its originality. Romantic comedies (which I find appalling) are all more or less the same but people watch them. “Slasher” horrors have been out there for a lot more decades than the “found footage” ones yet people still watch them. And still “alien” films dominate the sci-fi genre. Anyway, you get the gist.

Is “Butterfly Kisses” flawless? Definitely not. Has Myers utilised his nano-budget the best possible way? Definitely yes. Also, “Blink Man” doesn’t make it to the level of other urban legends such as “Candyman”, “Boogeyman” or “Babadook” for example. All three of them got a decent budget and distribution and we can only hope that Myers started something that will get noticed by the right people who will hire him to scare the s%!% out of us in the future.

Orson Wells (on the radio), Dean Alioto, Eduardo Sanchez, Oren Peli… all of them have offered and contributed to the “found footage” horror their way. Erik Kristopher Myers takes the torch now and, I for one, look forward to watching his next film.

P.S. Panasonic DVX 100 was also the camera I was using in 2005 as a cameraman.

Suspiria (2018): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

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Berlin 1977: A girl arrives at a world-renowned dancing school only to discover obscure entities harbouring haunting secrets.

“Suspiria” is a prime example of the endless highbrow/lowbrow “battle”. The reviews escalate from 1/10 to 10/10 and back in the blink of an eye. It is not for everyone! Expel the Hollywood narrative prior to entering into this world of darkness. Know the kind of films you like, and the kind you don’t. Have you ever seen me reviewing a comedy/romance? I would come back and slate every frame of it. But I’ve said before, I’m not here to slate films. I’m reviewing their parameters and examine their intentions. Pick a narrative you like and should you choose to go for something different, which I highly recommend every now and again, don’t rip it apart straight after.

Even though a remake of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” (1977), Luca Guadagnino’s homonymous paganistic world runs almost a full hour longer than the original, acting more as exploration or expansion, and preparation for the “Three Mothers” trilogy (Make sure to stay for the post-credit scene).

If you like watching a film and paying attention to details at the same time, then directing, photography, and certain montage sequences, i.e. Susie dancing and Olga… suffering, will blow your mind away. If you are into experimental cinema as well, you’ll love the storytelling too and consequently the film as a whole.

I knew Dakota Johnson has had her big breakthrough with the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy but, as I really tried and failed to watch even the first one, I was not familiar with her acting skills. Here, she definitely commits to the project and proves herself more than worthy. She completes 2 years of ballet training prior to taking this role, excels at her diversity, and I take my hat off to her.

Then there is the one and only Tilda Swinton who, like the amazing Kate Blanchet, can master any role as a woman as much as a man of her age, younger, older, or really freaking old. In this instance, she is three entirely different characters. I couldn’t admire her more. Plus, she just doesn’t get old! She is like a female Keanu Reeves!!!

Split (2016): Horror / Thriller

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A man with 23 personalities kidnaps three girls who must find a way out before the 24th is unleashed.

Sixteen years after “Unbreakable” (2000), and only just before the end credits started rolling down, we all found out that this was actually a (first) sequel. M. Night Shyamalan managed to keep us on the edge of our seats and once we said the first ‘WOW’, we realised what the marketing had managed to do. Then the second followed. Not included in the shooting script, and omitted from the test screenings, the last scene was kept under wraps, and is the tie-in between the two films. Kevin Crumb was written originally for “Unbreakable”, only to be seen in this one.

Based on a real-life person who actually had 24 personalities, “Split’s” Kevin Crumb suffers the same problem even though we get to see 9 of them on screen. Interestingly enough, “Unbreakable’s” David Dunn is based on a real-life person as well. Hmmm…

“Split”, as a standalone, is a brilliant psychological horror/thriller, with James McAvoy doing all the heavy lifting and the extremely talented Anya Taylor-Joy giving him all the support he needs. You feel for him as much as you hate him, depending on the personality that takes over. I have praised him and his talent in a previous review so feel free to see what I thought of him then and what I think of him now: https://kgpfilm.reviews/2018/12/26/filth-2013-comedy-crime-drama/

Experts on the Psychology field could argue on how much M. Night Shyamalan knows about the dissociative identity disorder, and the compartmentalization and segregation of the personalities but don’t let that distract you. Remember that it’s a psychological horror/thriller and not a documentary or a docudrama. I’ve watched documentaries propagandising inconceivable political and religious nonsense parroting biased and fallacious “facts”. “Split” is meant to give you the chills and that’s exactly what it does.

Constantine (2005): Action / Fantasy / Horror

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Occult detective John Constantine teams up with a policewoman when her sister allegedly committed suicide, and all hell brakes loose.

Now, that’s how you adapt a graphic novel! Before Warner Bros and DC started getting those shockingly dreadful reviews, there was “Constantine”. Hardly a superhero, definitely an antihero, John Constantine exists in the DC Universe and kicks demonic and angelic ass in his own blunt, cynic, and supernatural way.

Behind the camera, Francis Lawrence and his team, write, edit, and direct an action/fantasy (although not horror really) with a lot of humour, amazing photography, and great visual effects that help the story advance. If there were any gimmicks, flaws, or holes you wouldn’t bother finding them and, even if you did, you would turn the blind eye as it is that enjoyable.

In front of the lens, Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou, Shia LaBeouf, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Tilda Swinton, and Peter Stormare stand together and clash against each other throwing countless punchlines and keeping you entertained for two solid hours. Well, if you are too religious maybe not that entertained.

Anyway, I give my permission to Warner Bros to hire Francis Lawrence and his crew back to rebuild DCCU.

In the Mouth of Madness (1994): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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A cynical insurance investigator is hired by a publishing company to find a disappeared, renounced horror writer while global psychosis starts plaguing his readers worldwide.

I was a kid when I first watched it in the cinema. And then a young adult when I watched it in VHS. And here I am now, an adult, watching it in Blu-ray and feeling like a kid all over again. “In the Mouth of Madness” is one of John Carpenter’s best works, one of Sam Neil’s best performances, Michael De Luca’s best script, and, without a doubt, one of the best psychological horrors you will ever watch in your time. Fantasy and reality, sanity and insanity, pronoia and paranoia… all blend in to “bring to life” and pay tribute to H.P.Lovecraft’s horror fiction. Probably the best film that has captured the essence of the abstruse and horrifying Cthulhu Mythos. I say nothing more. Turn the lights off and get sucked into madness!

H.P.Lovecraft died in poverty and only posthumously he and his works were recognised. “In the Mouth of Madness”, a homage to Lovecraft, was not a commercial success, yet today, it is a critically acclaimed horror; a classic. I am so perplexed by what makes people tick most of the times. I guess, like almost everything else in life, we only learn the hard way and only when it’s too late – if that! Because it’s so hard to see what’s in front of our eyes the whole time and appreciate it while it’s there. Same with people…

You know what? I’m gonna write the sequel and send it to New Line Cinema. F@!% it!