Posts Tagged ‘horror’

31 Days of Horror – Day 31 – Session 9

Session 9

The final day is upon us and what better way to close out 31 Days of Horror than with a visit to the Danvers State Mental Hospital, setting of Brad Anderson’s Session 9. Prior to this film, Anderson was known more for directing a pair of romantic comedies, but, after this film, Anderson began delving into much darker projects like The Machinist, Transsiberian, and Vanishing on 7th Street. The story follows Gordon, the owner of a small asbestos removal company, who, upon hearing of the old hospital’s need for his services, places an aggressively low bid to secure the job in an effort to relieve some of his own financial stress associated with his new child. Gordon’s small but eclectic crew consisting of Mike, Phil, Lucas, and Gordon’s nephew, Jeff, descend upon the abandoned hospital and begin the job. Mike finds a box containing audio recordings of sessions with patient 444, a woman who suffered severe multiple personality disorder, and begins listening to the ominous recordings as the therapist pushes the patient to discuss her dark secret. Meanwhile, the group slowly descends into infighting as an ominous unseen killer begins to stalk them all. When I first saw this film, I was so fascinated that I watched it 2 or three more times. Anderson certainly calls forth his inner Hitchcock to bring forth a tale of mental anguish and breakdown that is not only creepy but entirely plausible. The ensemble performance of David Caruso, Josh Lucas, Stephen Gevedon, and Brendon Sexton III as well as the tour de force by Peter Mullan drives the haunting tale home.

Where do you live, Simon?

I live in the weak and wounded, Doc.

Session 9 on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 30 – Frontier(s)

Frontier(s)

Before writing and directing The Divide, Xavier Gens had his first genre success with the French horror film Frontier(s). Against the backdrop of chaos and riots caused by an ultra-conservative party coming to power in Paris, a group of small-time criminals – Alex, Tom, Farid, Yasmine, and her brother Sami – conduct a series of smash-and-grab robberies in an effort to set themselves up with new lives in Amsterdam. Sami is shot and the group, hounded by police, splits up with Tom and Farid going ahead of Yasmine and Alex and hiding out at an inn on the edge of the frontier just outside of Luxembourg. Thinking they’ve found a potential refuge, the pair contacts Alex and Yasmine and convinces them to regroup with them at the inn. Once they arrive, they are confronted with the the owners of the inn, Von Geisler clan, who, despite their initial quirkiness, prove to be a deadly and twisted family of Neo-Nazis intent on creating their own Aryan master race by using Yasmine as their own fascist breeding machine, leaving the group no choice but to fight for their own survival. Frontier(s) is an intense, well-written, and definitely gory thrill ride that may conjure comparisons to Hostel and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre but delivers a taut horror tale that is all its own.

Frontier(s) on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 29 – The Collector

The Collector

After breaking into the business by scripting the Feast franchise and Saw 4-7, the writing team of Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan went on to create a tale of a new sadistic psychopath in a film helmed by Dunstan – The Collector. The story follows Arkin, an ex-con turned handyman, who decides to rob his boss in order to pay off his ex-wife’s debt. Once he breaks into the remote country home of the Chase family, however, Arkin finds it littered with a maze of deadly traps laid by a sadistic killer who has imprisoned the family. Armed with only his wits and cunning, Arkin must find a way to escape The Collector. No doubt emboldened by their experience with the Saw franchise, Melton and Dunstan have created their own trap-laying madman who comes across as creepy and very effective in the title role. Josh Stewart delivers a solid performance as the anti-hero, Arkin, and the mood and atmosphere are extremely effective in helping to create a sense of claustrophobic tension. The gore is also present in full brutal force and serves to delineate the stark difference in criminality between Arkin’s felonious intent and the bloodlust of the Collector. In a far more personal way, Dunstan and Melton have created a far more memorable and effective horror tale than Stevan Mena’s 2004 film, Malevolence, while utilizing a similar storyline. Obviously, the pair found enough success with this 2009 entry to produce a sequel, The Collection, which is due to be released in the end of November.

The Collector on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 28 – Frailty

Frailty

Aside from appreciating his performances in films like Near Dark and A Simple Plan, I was never a big fan of Bill Paxton until I saw this movie and learned how much he had invested in it to make sure that the project came to fruition. Frailty tells the story of an FBI agent, Wesley Doyle, who is approached by a young man, Fenton Meiks, who claims his brother is the serial killer known as God’s Hands. Meiks offers to show Doyle proof of his brother’s guilt and, as the pair travel to the site, Meiks imparts to Doyle a bizarre childhood wherein his father attempted to train the two boys to become “demon” slayers after receiving a divine transmission from God. The story is very reminiscent of a Stephen King tale that focuses on a loss of innocence or rite of passage as the two brothers come of age by virtue of their father’s apparent delusion. The film is also very personal and character-focused which allows Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Booth, and the two young brothers played by Matt O’Leary and Jeremy Sumpter to deliver a powerful ensemble performance that breathes life into this sordid, little Southern Gothic tale.

Frailty on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 27 – 6 Films to Keep You Awake

6 Films to Keep You Awake

We’re almost through 31 days and I’ve managed not to include any horror anthologies . . . until now. 6 Films to Keep You Awake is a horror anthology from some of the finest horror directors in Spain featuring Mateo Gil’s Spectre, Alex De La Iglesia’s The Baby’s Room, Jaume Balaguero’s To Let, Enrique Urbizu’s A Real Friend, Paco Plaza’s A Christmas Tale, and Narciso Cerrador’s Blame. Spectre tells the story of a man haunted by a bizarre and supernatural love affair from his past, The Baby’s Room focuses on a shadowy figure who haunts a family’s new home, in To Let a young couple faces the onslaught of the landlady from hell, imaginary friends prove to be deadly in A Real Friend, a group of kids face down a vicious criminal dressed as Santa in A Christmas Tale, and Blame provides a grim abortion fable. The crown jewels of this collection are To Let, The Baby’s Room and A Christmas tale, but that should come as no surprise as that group of filmmakers would go on after this anthology to work on The Last Circus and the REC franchise. This is not to say that the other 3 are not solid and entertaining films. I’m just a little biased towards De La Iglesia, Plaza, and Balaguero’s work. In short, it’s an excellent, relatively unknown collection that offers a primer on some of the finest horror filmmakers Spain has to offer.

The Baby’s Room on IMDb

To Let on IMDb

The Christmas Tale on IMDb

A Real Friend on IMDb

Spectre on IMDb

Blame on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 26 – The Midnight Meat Train

The Midnight Meat Train

I’ve been a reader and avid fan of Clive Barker’s work since the late 80′s when I picked up a copy of Cabal and, any time I see his name attached to a film, I always make a point to see it. Luckily, this was the case with The Midnight Meat Train which, written in the author’s first visit to the Big Apple in his late 20′s, chronicles a dark tale of obsession amidst a dark, subterranean world. The story follows Leon, an aspiring young photographer, living with his supportive girlfriend, Maya, who works at a nearby diner as a waitress. Leon gets a break when he meets local art gallery owner, Susan Hoff, but is delayed his big break by Hoff who insinuates that Leon find a grittier edge to his work before she will display it in her gallery. Leon obliges and begins exploring the city and its subway system at night for inspiration when he breaks up a group of young thugs harassing a young woman. The next day, Leon finds a report that the woman he saved has gone missing and, upon his second nocturnal visit to the subway, encounters Mahogany, a stoic and imposing figure in a charcoal suit and tie, who triggers an obsession that leads Leon believe that he has not only found a suspect in the woman in question’s disappearance but a full-on serial killer. The film is beautifully shot and inspires a real urban gothic landscape where a monster like Mahogany looks right at home and the visual effects are, at times, absolutely stunning in the death scenes. Vinnie Jones portrayal of Mahogany is spot-on and extremely effective when balanced against Cooper’s inquisitive and furtive Leon. This is one of the truly great films based on Clive Barker’s work that will satisfy any horror fan.

The Midnight Meat Train on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 25 – The Last Circus

The Last Circus

Alex De La Iglesia’s The Last Circus is a brash, bizarre, grotesque, and demented exploration of two crazed clowns and their battle for the affections of an equally twisted acrobat, Natalia. The story follows a pair of circus clowns, one happy and one sad. The sad clown, Javier, dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a “happy” clown, but, personal tragedies and low self esteem keep him mired in the role of the sad clown. The happy clown, Sergio, is not only Javier’s boss and one of the most popular performers in the circus but a violent alcoholic who beats his girlfriend, Natalia, on a nightly basis. Javier swoons for the affections of Natalia and, despite her masochistic fascination with Sergio, Natalia begins to entertain Javier’s advances and an intense and violent love triangle develops that brings out the dark side of Javier. The violent competition reaches a crescendo as Javier devolves into a near feral monster that threatens to consume everyone and everything in his path. The lead actors deliver powerful performances that drive the growing madness of the film to new heights and make The Last Circus, easily, not only a great horror film but one of the best films released in 2011.

The Last Circus on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 24 – Primal

Primal

Josh Reed’s Primal may borrow heavily on the concepts from films like Evil Dead, Cabin Fever, and The Ruins; but, somewhere in the mix, it manages to come off as entertaining despite some of the predictable themes. The opens with a shot of a caveman making a painting on a rock face and falling victim to a “primal” evil that goes dormant some 12,000 years ago. Fast forward to present day and a group of young friends have traveled to the same rock face to study the paintings. The group sets up camp and, during the night, one of the group, Mel, goes skinny-dipping in a waterhole and, shortly after her swim, falls into a feverish state and begins losing her teeth. Mel’s transformation becomes complete the following morning as she grows a mouthful of large fangs, regresses mentally into a vicious and primal state, and begins to hunt her friends. Before the others can decide how to escape, another of their group falls victim to the primal possession and the rest are forced to fight their friends for survival. Despite it’s overt similarities to other genre titles, Primal is a an enjoyable, frenetic ride and the atmosphere and the actors’ performances go a long way towards masking the film’s weaknesses.

Primal on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 23 – The Divide

The Divide

Sometimes you don’t need a monstrous mutant, an unholy terror, or a serial killer to make a great horror film. Mankind, after all, is its own worst enemy and this is the case with Xavier Gens’ The Divide, a post-apocalyptic character study that examines the downward spiral of humanity. The film begins with a nuclear assault on New York City that drives a small group of survivors into the basement of their apartment complex which has been turned into a fallout bunker by maintenance man and 9/11 survivor, Mickey. Initital hopes for rescue seem bleak when invaders in HAZMAT suits arrive and prove to be anything but the cavalry, and the group begins to descend into hopelessness, paranoia, and madness. The Divide becomes realized as the distance between the characters as the worst elements of human nature come to the fore, building to a crescendo that will engulf the entire cast of survivors and leave the viewer haunted by a moral, ethical, and spiritual wasteland borne of the fragility of the human condition.

The Divide on IMDb

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31 Days of Horror – Day 22 – Timecrimes

Timecrimes

At first glance, the cover of Timecrimes might make you think of some twisted re-up of the Invisible Man, but, I assure you, the truth is even more bizarre than that. Director Nacho Vigalondo spins the tale of Hector, a relatively ordinary guy, who is moving into a new house with his wife when he catches a glimpse of a woman stripping off her clothes in the woods not too far away. Not satisfied with just a peep, Hector ventures into the woods for a closer look, discovers that the woman appears to be dead, and, without warning, he is stabbed by a strange man with pink bandages and flees into the woods. Hector seeks refuge in a research facility where a mysterious scientist beckons him to hide in an odd chamber and the weird tale kicks into overdrive when Hector awakens to discover that he has just gone back in time. Vigalondo has crafted a jewel of a time-traveling horror film that keeps the viewer guessing as he slowly draws back the curtain to reveal the truth behind the odd events in this tense thriller.

Timecrimes on IMDb

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