Tag Archives: horror movie

Film Review “A Classic Horror Story” (2021) #NetflixReview #150WordReview

Should be called A Classic Horror Story Medley

Strangers carpooling together across Italy get stranded in the woods and stalked by an evil presence and must fight tooth and nail to get out in one piece. As one of our characters remarks, “It’s like the set-up of a classic horror movie.”

A Classic Horror Movie, ironically, won’t go down as a classic horror movie. Indeed, it doesn’t even have the storyline of a classic horror movie. It does feel eerily familiar, however, with hints of Evil Dead, Saw, and Cabin in the Woods thrown in. The spooky house in the woods (another classic horror trope) was well-designed and very unsettling. What the movie sometimes lacks in acting it makes up for in atmos.

A suspenseful and gruesome flick with a wonderful post-credits sequence which is just perfect. However, it thinks it’s a bit cleverer than it actually is. Should be called A Classic Horror Story Medley.

3/5

© 2021-2022 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Haunt” (2019) #NetflixReview #Haunt

you are in for a treat

A group of friends out on Hallowe’en stumble upon an “extreme” haunted house which promises a real life nightmare. However, it soon becomes apparent that something is very wrong in this haunted house, this is one nightmare they won’t wake up from.

A kind of Halloween-cum-Saw-cum-Escape Room, this movie is in no way derivative or exploitative. It’s thrilling, disturbing and tense. I have to say, I haven’t enjoyed a horror this much for a while. From co-writer-director duo Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the minds behind the wonderful A Quiet Place, you are in for a treat.

This kind of movie usually ends with a stapled-on plot twist which “explains” the motivations of the baddies, even though this ending never follows on logically from the movie itself. Ya know the kind of ending: “It turns out the baddie done it because (s)he’s mad with grief after his son killed himself with drugs as a result of depression caused by failing a single physics class paper set by his teacher — the mother of the protagonist!” On one hand, it was a relief not to have to deal with this kind of movie-ruining ending; on the other hand, the total lack of rhyme and reason for how, why, when the baddie did all of this stops the movie being five stars. There just is no reason or sense to why the baddies do what they do, how they were able to set up their elaborate trap, where our baddies came from, and why nobody have rumbled them before.

Having said that, a wonderful movie!

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “The Lodge” (2019) #NetflixReview #TheLodge

Everything is believable, which is itself quite incredible … phenomenal writing, acting, set design, and direction

At a remote cabin in the woods, two mourning children and their soon-to-be step mum get snowed in together and cut off from the rest of the world. But as their frosty relationship starts to thaw, strange events begin to imperil our not-quite-family as their cabin reaches the boiling point of a fever dream.*

The Lodge features standard horror tropes. Cabin in the woods, weird stuff happens. A step-mum who is awkwardly replacing a mother who recently died in traumatic circumstances. A dad who inextricably takes off. But this film is far from standard.

This feature takes things in an interesting direction. The viewer starts to lose all sense of up and down. A kind-of twist near the end really up-ends us, and the ending itself, although open to interpretation, is surely bleak.

Child abuse and the trauma it leaves, the fragility of the human mind, the reality of growing up in a cult, and trying to start a new life. This movie deals with a lot of stuff. But it doesn’t feel overloaded. It’s a real slowburn, and it builds surely, steadily, and frightening to its climax. Everything is believable, which is itself quite incredible given the extreme actions of our three leads late on in the film. That I was completely sold is testament to the phenomenal writing, acting, set design, and direction.

Not an uplifting movie at all, but a wonderful one.

4/5

*Did you enjoy the pretentious extended metaphor?

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Terrified” a.k.a. “Aterrados” (2017)

Like much Argentine cinema … a great idea … but ultimately an unsatisfying mess

Strange events and a murdered wife brings a motley collection of investigators — a cop, a doctor, and a paranormalogist — to this Buenos Aires neighbourhood to investigate. Will they get to the bottom of the case and stop this evil from spreading?

Terrified a.k.a. Aterrados is a disturbing horror film. It never allows you to get your bearings. And asides from a dodgy bit of special effects early on, the film is darkly creepy with a disturbing evil presence.

Unfortunately, the film’s apparently deliberate decision to have no character-based central narrative thrust or fixed protagonist makes it hard to get into and stay with this movie. The effect is that a bunch of weird and disturbing stuff is happening, but without any reason focus or point. It’s frankly hard to care about what happens.

Like much Argentine cinema, there is a great idea here, and some wonderful acting, direction, and film design, but a film that none-the-less is ultimately an unsatisfying mess that goes nowhere. No matter how good these other things are, if the central narrative doesn’t work, it’s game over for the film. Sadly.

2/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Prey” (2021) #NetflixReview #PreyMovie

Pointless, hangover fodder

Five friends decide to celebrate a stag do in an alternative style: with a manly cross-country hike in the deepest darkest woods. Uh-oh. They inevitably end up getting stalked by a lone marksman who terrorises them.

The whole point of Prey is to see how pressure exposes unseen cracks in the fellowship causing our team to battle against each other and themselves as their friendship threatens to self-destruct. Can they keep it together, will they destroy themselves? Sadly. this descent doesn’t work at all, as it was impossible to understand why these friends were friends to begin with; they hated each other from the get-go. So it’s all rather undramatic and boring.

As for the marksman, the film’s pathetic attempts to explain their actions makes no real sense whatsoever. Indeed, there’s no real motivation for anyone’s actions, including the decision to go on a hike instead of a booze-up. It wants to be a German Ritual (2017), but it’s really not.

Pointless, hangover fodder.

2/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Things Heard and Seen” (2021) #NetflixReview

the ghost story … goes nowhere [and] was pointless.

After an artist relocates with her husband and young child to a dream house for the dream price (familiar set-up?), she slowly begins to realise that both the house and her husband have a dark side.

Part ghost story, part psychological drama of the my-husband-isn’t-who-I-thought-he-was kind, Things Heard and Seen thrillingly portrays the descent into darkness, or rather the slow reveal, of Catherine’s (Amanda Seyfried) husband George (James Norton). I felt sickened and horrified as the truth depth of George’s deception slowly unfurled. All the actors were wonderful.

The story itself is compelling, but there are just too many loose ends to make this film the four star flick it seemed it was going to be. Apparently, the novel which the movie is based on, All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage, does indeed develop these threads. For example, there are characters like Eddie and Cole Vayle (Alex Neustaedter and Jack Gore) or Willis (Natalia Dyer) who seem like they should be developed and central characters, but who just kind of go nowhere. What was the point of any of these characters, frankly? And the worst thing was the ghost story angle; it literally goes nowhere. It really was pointless and, ultimately, a distracting waste of time.

This leads on to the fundamental issue with the film. Whilst screenwriters Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulchini give it a decent go, they seem to be a little unclear as to what kind of movie they’re trying to make. Is it a domestic drama, or is it a ghost film? Or is it both? Clarity on this point would have sharpened up the movie and helped identify which of these loose ends to develop and which to cut.

None-the-less, a very entertaining film which lets itself down.

3/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “1922” (2017) #NetflixReview #1922 #1922Movie

our farmer brutally slits his wife’s throat in her sleep with the help of his son, as you do.

In the year 1922, a simple but proud farmer decides to murder his wife, with the help of his son, in order to seize her property before she divorces him.

She wanted to move to the city and open a hat shop, as you do; he wanted to undertake back-breaking labour in the scorching Summer sun harvesting corn, as you do; the son — caught in the middle — wanted to bang the next door neighbour’s daughter, as you do. So our farmer brutally slits his wife’s throat in her sleep with the help of his son, as you do. Compellingly portrayed, the story is told by our protagonist as a confession which is a nice framing device so we can see how living with his crime has affected him.

Adapted from the acclaimed Stephen King novella, 1922 is a grippingly depicted tale of what happens when you give in to your darker side. King is a wonderful writer, albeit not everyone’s cup of tea, yet everyone can agree that films based on his works are a decidedly mixed bunch: from the truly sublime (The Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, Stand By Me) to the truly stupid (The Night Flier, Thinner). 1922 is no classic, but it’s no bum note, either. It’s a good story which has been adapted well.

King fans should definitely watch this. Those who like psychological horror and fans of true crime stories should also watch this. Those who don’t enjoy watching middle-aged men sip lemonade on their verandas whilst brooding on the nature of sin should skip this.

All in all, “enjoyable” — insofar as watching sin destroy a family is enjoyable.

3/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “The Block Island Sound” (2020) #NetflixReview #TheBlockIslandSound

Tom ain’t alright

On a small, isolated island, deadbeat Harry (Chris Sheffield) still lives with his self-professed only friend — his Dad, Tom (Neville Archambault). But Tom ain’t alright; he’s starting to display bizarre behaviour, such as blackouts, catatonia, and sleepwalking where he terrifyingly finds himself repeatedly on his boat in the middle of the sea, apparently drawn there by a malevolent force. What’s happening to Tom? And does it have anything to do with the dead animals that keep washing up on Block Island or the new windfarms? Harry needs to find out before Tom does something to harm himself — or his family.

The Block Island Sound is a disturbing slowburn that keeps you riveted; what is the mysterious source of Tom and the island’s malaise, and can it be reasoned with? And just how much of a threat does it pose to Tom and his family? The evil presence, if it’s even real, is reminiscent of works like The Tommyknockers and Honeymoon (long review, short review).

The Block Island Sound is a solid movie with great acting. Unlike other similarly mysterious films, BIS has a very clear, almost spoonfed conclusion which kind of turns the whole film on its head. I’m not sure whether it qualifies as a “twist”, rather it just gives a different viewpoint, a new set of glasses through which to view the film. This ending, combined with the frankly horrifying nightly appearances to Harry of Tom, and the magnificent sound design, push this film from being a solid and memorable movie into being something a little extra, a little special.

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Wounds” (2019) #NetflixReview #Wounds2019 #BabakAnvari

A nerve-shredding slowburn with atmosphere in buckets … [that] sadly goes nowhere.

An evil begins to plague barman Will (Armie Hammer) after he picks up a mobile phone left behind by people on a night out.

The second picture from writer-director Babak Anvari, all fans of his debut Under the Shadow [short review] will know what to expect: a nerve-shredding slowburn with atmosphere in buckets. The sound design played a big part in the terror (just like in his debut feature). The performances from our leads Arnie Hammer and his on-screen wife Carrie (Dakota Johnson) are highly believable. I felt sucked into the world of this increasingly burnt out down-and-outer as his life spirals to the gutter.

And if you are a fan of Under the Shadow [long review] you will know what else to expect: a film that collapses after Act One. Just as Under the Shadow was all set-up, never really delivering on its promise, Wounds also gives us a lot of hope for an immense film, but just goes nowhere. Despite being involved in the world in front of me, I realised we were forty-five minutes in and we were still at the set-up, five minute mark in a normal film. Worse than this overly long set up, there is no properly developed Act Two, no finale, and the film just goes nowhere. Nothing is tied up nor made to make sense. For example, Carrie is increasingly being affected by the evil, mesmerised by a truly disturbing portal, but that plot thread sadly goes nowhere; how can that be?? Some hail this type of thing this as ‘open-ended and subtle’, but it really isn’t. It’s the sign of a filmmaker self-indulgently (although understandably) revelling in the world he’s created instead of doing something with the world he’s created.

Anvari is clearly a talented filmmaker with a unique and disturbing vision. However, I strongly suggest he not take screenwriting duties for the next movie. Sure, we all want to be singer-songwriter, but some folks just aren’t cut out for it (see: David Gilmore). Likewise, Anvari should get a writer on board who can fulfil his undoubtedly powerful and frightening vision. I look forward to experiencing that picture.

Strong on atmosphere, light on plot, vacant of ending.

2/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Film Review “Apostle” (2018) #NetflixReview #150WordReview

Part Meet the Amish, part The Village, part penal colony

Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) goes undercover on a dangerous mission to the isolated island of Erisden where his sister is being held hostage by a wild religious cult. The task is not easy; the island’s magnetic leader Malcolm (Michael Sheen) is becoming increasingly paranoid, and the island is ruled by a kind of religious police who control people’s actions and movements.

Apostle is an original film. It portrays the cult-village believably. Part Meet the Amish, part The Village, part penal colony in 1905, the egos of the main characters are believably presented. The cult itself is increasingly bizarre and it turns out there may be truth to the mysterious preachings of their prophet Malcolm. None-the-less, the supernatural aspects of the film are secondary to the psychology.

Good performances from all. A believable cult, a convincing community, a bizarre but original supernatural secret at the heart of the island, Apostle is a really good film. However, the full-on gore and body horror aspect might be too much for those expecting a period drama.

Writer-Director Gareth Evans reminds of a Welsh Neil Marshall, a rising star to watch, for sure.

4/5

© 2021 Bryan A. J. Parry

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