Month: January 2016

Throwback Thursday Movie: Re-Animator (1985)

A medical school student named Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) is trying to find a classmate to be his new roommate. When a mysterious new student answers his add, Dan’s world gets turned upside down. This new student, Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs), is obsessed with finding an agent that can re-animate dead tissue. Dan slowly gets sucked into Herbert’s work. It doesn’t take long for things to go awry, with some dire consequences that the two students may not be able to get themselves out of.

I know this may come as a shock to many horror fans, but this was my first time seeing Re-Animator. I know, I know! It’s shocking. There are many classics that I need to catch up on (which is why I do Throwback Thursday reviews). This is a film I’ve always wanted to watch. I see clips of it here and there on different horror TV networks, plus it has quite the reputation as a cult classic horror film.

Going into this film, the one thing I was the most excited about was the practical effects. Luckily the film lived up to my expectations. Eighties horror and scifi films always have the most creative and elaborate practical effects. Re-Animator doesn’t use as many practical effects as I was expecting, but the ones they do use are pretty amazing. Two of the stand-outs are a mangled, deceased cat that gets re-animated and a re-animated headless body (along with the severed head). With the severed head they did a great job going back and forth between using a model head and the actual actor’s head (which was stuck through a hole in a table).

Generally speaking, the story was interesting and kept my attention. While I wouldn’t technically call this a zombie film, it takes an interesting approach to the how and why the dead would be brought back to life. I enjoyed that it went in a more scientific direction than many living dead films do. There were some aspects of the plot that I don’t think worked quite as well. There were many times during the story where I couldn’t help but think “why?” Why was Herbert so obsessed with proving he could re-animate dead tissue? Why did Dan trust Herbert so easily? Why was Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) obsessed with Megan (Barbara Crampton)? These pieces of the story made things more exciting, but I hate not knowing why they happened in the first place.

Considering this is a campy eighties horror flick, the acting is surprisingly good. Jeffrey Combs (Frighteners, From Beyond) was equal parts creepy and intriguing as the obsessive Herbert West. Throughout the film he does an amazing job of portraying the borderline psychotic need Herbert has to prove his theory, and his willingness to do whatever it takes to reach that goal. Bruce Abbott (Dark Justice), while not really a standout in the film, was still enjoyable to watch. At times his character felt a bit bland, but that could have been more due to writing than his acting. My favorite performance came from David Gale (Bride of Re-Animator) as the menacing Dr. Carl Hill. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to play a severed head, but he pulled it off in a way that was disturbing and comical all at the same time.

While I couldn’t say this film is my favorite eighties horror film, it’s definitely a fun watch that will appeal to many viewers. Re-Animator is a cult classic for good reason. Whatever it lacks in the scares, it greatly makes up for in weirdness and humor. It’s a fun story with a bizarre cast of characters. Add that to the delightfully cheesy eighties practical effects, and you get a recipe for a fun flick that will entertain people for years to come. This is a film that every true horror fan should see at least once.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

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The Boy (2016)

Greta (Lauren Cohan) is an American nanny looking for a job in the English countryside. When she arrives at her new job she is shocked to find that the “boy” she is supposed to care for is actually a doll. Even more bizarre is that the doll was made to look like the couple’s deceased son, Brahms, and they treat the doll as if it was their son. The parents strongly urge Greta to follow Brahms’ rules while they are away. When she doesn’t follow the rules, strange things begin to happen. Is Greta losing her mind living all alone in the secluded house, or is the doll actually alive?

I am so pleased to be able to tell you that I enjoyed this film. Going into the theater I was expecting this film to be dull and lacking in any substance. One of my favorite aspects of this film is that the trailer made you think the plot would go in a different direction than it actually did. This may have been a disappointment to some simply because the film was a bit slower than the trailer made it appear, with the exception of the climax. I agree that the film definitely moves at a leisurely pace, but what the film lacks in speed and excitement it makes up for in ambiance. It creates a very unsettling, creepy feel. There were times where it was unconformable to watch the odd relationship between the parents and doll Brahms, and even more uncomfortable to watch that relationship develop between Greta and doll Brahms.

This film also exceeded my expectations by having an amazing twist. It was exciting, made sense with everything that led up to the climax, and I did not even remotely see it coming. Even as the twist was being revealed it took me a second for it to click in my brain. Not only was the twist an unexpected one, but it made everything that you had just watched even more creepy and disturbing than you thought possible. Unfortunately, there is a down side to this exciting twist. While I thought it worked very well and added a ton of excitement to what could have been a slightly dull plot, it also felt like the twist was a complete rip off of another horror film that came out in 2014. I don’t want to say what that film is to avoid spoiling the end of this film (or the 2014 film for those who haven’t seen it yet). I’ll just say that, while the motivations for the entities are different in the two films, the general idea is the same. I’m going to give the filmmakers of The Boy the benefit of the doubt and say it is just a coincidence, especially since the 2014 film was a much smaller production that many people probably didn’t see.

The two leads did an excellent job. Many of us have seen Lauren Cohan (The Walking Dead, Chuck) in several TV shows, primarily in a supporting role. While she has always been amazingly talented in those roles, she has never had the opportunity to really shine as the main character in a large production film. It was great to finally see her as a leading lady. Cohan held her own and proved that she can carry a film along in the main character. Rupert Evans (The Canal, Hellboy) was as charming as ever playing the lovable grocery boy, Malcolm.

The Boy was much more successful than I imagined it could be. There were so many elements that worked in its favor such as the acting and an interesting plot line. The marketing also worked in this film’s favor by not revealing too much of the story, which happens all too often these days. The twist was one of the best parts of the film, but it also is one of the reasons I had to dock a bit from the score. It was just too similar to the 2014 horror film I mentioned earlier to ignore. Looking past that, The Boy was still a creepy horror film that will leave you feeling quite disturbed about what you witnessed.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

The Forest

The Aokigahara forest at the base of Mount Fuji, Japan has a dark past. It is known as a place where people go to commit suicide. Sara’s twin sister, Jess, went into that forest and vanished. Everyone is convinced that Jess is dead, but Sara knows that she is still alive and she’s in trouble. Sara decides to venture into the forest to find her sister. What she doesn’t realize is those who die in the forest become restless spirits, and now they want Sara.

Unfortunately, most of what I have to say about this film is negative. Of the things I didn’t like, the thing I liked the least was the dialogue. Throughout the entire film the dialogue felt forced and artificial. This can especially be heard at the beginning of the film. They were clearly trying to set things up for the rest of the film by establishing the relationships between characters and the situation that leads to Sara (Natalie Dormer) traveling to Japan. The problem is that these things were too simply stated and didn’t sound the way people would speak to each other in the real world. I was almost cringing every time people spoke to each other in the film because it felt so false.

The scares may have also been affected by the lack of a clear mythology. Throughout the film they mention the spirits of those who kill themselves in the forest. The idea is when they die their spirits come back angry. They also discuss how the forest makes you see things and tried to make you kill yourself. In theory these are great ideas to make a scary film. What keeps The Forest from succeeding is that the various things that are supposed to scare you don’t connect to the mythology the way they should. It feels more like a bunch of random pieces of classic stories and iconic horror images thrown together. There isn’t a cohesive theme connecting the different elements that are supposed to scare you as part of the same mythology.

Another aspect of this film that did not work was the scares. What would have made this film more terrifying would have been if they relied more on suspense and tension while Sara is looking for Jess in the forest infamous for having dark spirits. Instead the filmmakers chose to utilize jump scares to frighten the audience. Sadly, these jump scares did not achieve the intended response. I am a complete wimp and typically it doesn’t take much to scare me. There were several occasions in this film where I braced myself for a scare that didn’t even make me flinch. The fact that I had no problem walking to my car alone at 5am this morning when it was pitch black is further proof that this film didn’t scare me. The jump scares may not have been scary because they were set up in such a way that you almost knew they were coming. If they were to do this film over again, I would recommend having the spirits less visible and more like shadows lurking behind every tree to build the tension, rather than having them everywhere and looking relatively like normal people.

I absolutely love Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2) who plays both Sara and Jess. In this film, I did not love her. It’s really difficult for me to discern whether it was her acting that I didn’t like or if it was simply the writing and her acting was fine. It seems more likely that it was the writing because there were definitely moments when her performance pushed past the unfortunate dialogue. Taylor Kinney (Chicago Fire) did a fine job, but I felt like his character was out of place and almost an unnecessary addition to the film. This seemed to be a common theme. There were a couple other characters who seemed as if they were irrelevant to the plot and that they didn’t belong in this film.

This was a film that could have been very interesting and scary. The idea of going into the reportedly haunted suicide forest of Japan sounds like the makings of a terrifying story, especially since this place actually exists. The film simply failed to create a complete mythology in their plot based on the real life myths. The result felt like pieces of several different stories chopped up and thrown together in a way that lacked substance and scares. Combine that with the robotic dialogue and it ruins any chance of creating a film that the audience could fall in love with. The one redeeming quality I can say about this film is that the ending was not what I expected, which is always a nice surprise.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10

Favorite Things: Horror Films of 2015

Now that 2015 is over it’s time to reflect on the films I watched and reviewed over the past year. 2015 was a great year for horror. There were so many great films that came out. I wish there had been more time to watch them all, but of the ones I watched there were definitely some stand outs. My New Year’s resolution is to make more time to watch the horror films coming out in 2016. Here is my list of my 5 favorite horror films that came out in 2015 (in no particular order):

It Follows

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This was one of the more polarizing films of 2015. Most people either loved it or hated it. Personally, I thought it was a unique concept that was beautifully shot. It was almost like watching a piece of art. Probably my favorite aspect of this film was actually the score. The score was so amazing that it will likely go down in horror history as one of the best.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/03/29/it-follows/

What We Do in the Shadows

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Horror comedy is one of my favorite horror sub-genres. What We Do in the Shadows did not disappoint. It was such a bizarre concept that came together so well. You always see vampires as these grand, regal, ancient creatures. This film made you see vampires in a different light and kept you laughing from start to finish.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/08/04/what-we-do-in-the-shadows/

The Final Girls

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This may be my absolute favorite horror film that I saw in 2015. It was hilarious, the story was familiar and original at the same time, the acting was phenomenal, and it had some gorgeous visual effects. What makes this film stand out is because it relentlessly makes fun of the classic 80’s slasher film, while paying homage to it all at the same time. It also did a superb job of portraying what it would be like if you were trapped in a horror movie, which is saying a lot given the likelihood of that happening. If you don’t laugh your ass off while watching this film, you might be broken.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/10/12/the-final-girls/

The Hive

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This film was quite a surprise for me. I hadn’t heard much about it beforehand, but recognized Kathryn Prescott from a couple TV shows. I had liked her in her previous work so I thought I would give this film a try. It blew me away. The plot immediately drew me in and kept me interested all the way through to the credits. These days, that is quite a feat. The Hive also has some great acting and used some intriguing visuals to catch your attention.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/11/16/the-hive/

Krampus

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I love writer/director Michael Dougherty.  This film showcased everything I love about his work; it used a classic piece of holiday mythology, it was creepy, it was funny, and there was never a time when I was bored. Something that I feel many horror films lack these days is character development, but Krampus definitely made sure you knew the characters before things turned South. My favorite aspect of this film, and other works by Dougherty, is that he manages to makes creatures that are adorable and terrifying at the same time.

Full Review: https://thebloggingbanshee.com/2015/12/05/krampus/