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I didn’t hear much of the buzz surrounding Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan until I watched one of my favorite horror movie reviewers cover it. Then I began to realize I had seen multiple threads about this movie and heard it name dropped frequently of late. I didn’t need a whole lot of reasons to watch a popular Korean zombie flick and decided immediately I was going to watch it this month. After Old Boy, The Host, I Saw the Devil, and A Tale of Two Sisters, I have a lot of faith in disturbing Korean movies and have yet to see a bad one.

Train to Busan is another excellent addition to this list. The story behind the film is as simple as the title implies — a busy, absent father takes his daughter on a train ride to the city of Busan and while they’re on the train it just so happens that the zombie apocalypse starts. Cue insanity.

If anyone is going to dismiss this movie it’s going to be over the fact that it’s a zombie movie. I can completely understand why anyone would be sick of zombies at this point. They can be a dull villain, because often no matter how much you mix it up they’re still just growling dead people who either run or walk and want to eat humans. You know what to expect out of any given zombie movie. If you absolutely despise this subgenre then chances are you’re not going to shed that point of view for a foreign horror movie.

Although I certainly experience zombie fatigue, there’s just something about them that I like even after the idea’s been done so many times. The first horror movie I ever watched was Night of the Living Dead and I’m still fond of most of Romero’s movies. For me, as long as there’s some new element added to the zombie concept, I’m into it.

I’m going to argue that there are two things that make the zombies in this film more interesting. The first is the confined environment. A train is a pretty linear setting and the movie does a good job portraying the chaos flowing through the train compartments. The confined space adds a somewhat interesting and new dynamic to the zombie story. It makes for some very cool scenes. The second thing is the actual look of the zombies. They’re not incredibly different, but their movements and appearances are well done. It looks almost as if they hired break dancers for the parts, seeing the way that they move.

I could potentially say there’s a third element that makes this film’s zombies worth it, but to be honest I didn’t find it all that intriguing. These zombies are blind in the darkness, which proves useful going through train tunnels. Eh? Eh.

The movie has a nice blend of silliness and drama without ever really dipping into being too horrifying or gory. There are some funny moments that are well placed and serve to break tension and also endear you to certain characters. The cast of characters, as I’ve found with all the aforementioned Korean horror movies, is fantastic. You slowly get to know them, learning a few traits to make you love some and hate others, and it’s done well considering there is quite a handful of characters. The daughter is absolutely adorable and doesn’t enter annoying child actor territory whatsoever.

The look of the movie is nice as well. The environment gives us some great contrasting colors, rich oranges and blues and grays and yellows. There are many scenes within this environment that are entertaining to watch. The zombies look great falling out of helicopters and pouncing off the ground, tumbling in a wave through the train in a way that speaks to World War Z but has a much better overall look. Some of the cooler scenes also are a bit silly, which is mixed in well and spread apart from the more dramatic action sequences.

One complaint I do have is how relaxed the actors are. There’s an enjoyable gradual build up of people discovering that the zombie apocalypse is happening, however the realization happens a little too slowly. It is ridiculous how slowly some people catch on to the presence of zombies in their train car. The actors don’t really scream and seem rather calm when confronted with the undead, which can be nice if you hate listening to the screaming.

What’s most charming about this movie (a horror movie? charming?) is that there are actually some nice family values carried throughout the story. Yes, it’s entertaining and action-packed, with some scenes that might make you gasp or slap your hand to your mouth, but the story still ended up being very touching and emotional. The ending moved me and I cared about the characters. Which is pretty shocking for a zombie movie.

This is one of the best zombie flicks I’ve seen in years, perhaps since the original [Rec], and I recommend checking it out even if you’re a little sick to death of the undead.

October is here, Halloween is coming, and this means horror movies. Anyone who knows me knows that I love horror and watch films in the genre nigh constantly. For the last five years I’ve attempted to watch a horror movie every single day in the month of October, always unsuccessfully, though last year was my best yet — made it to 28 horror movies out of the attempted 31.

This year I’ve decided not to attempt this silly feat, however, this hasn’t stopped me from having watched some horror movies recently. I will also still attempt to watch a handful this month and perhaps I’ll throw up some reviews for them. Until then, I’ll briefly run through some recent watches and let you know whether I think you should bother seeing them or not.

For additional horror movie reviews and recommendations, I encourage you to check out my posts from last year reviewing my rapid-fire horror movie marathon: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. There’s an interesting mix of good, bad and mediocre to peruse there.

Darling (2015): Don’t watch it.

Image result for darling movie

A lot of people recommended this film because it’s artistic and aesthetic. However, the movie has the same issue as A Girl Walks Home Alone at Midnight — there’s very little substance, so it can actually be quite boring. How much do you want to stare at the lead actress Lauren Ashley Carter? That’s really your litmus test for whether you should watch this film, as that’s really mostly what you’ll be doing. This film also fails to be as compelling as A Girl Walks Home Alone. There are less characters and less variety to the setting. The plot is a descent into madness tale, which is extremely unoriginal as it is, and fails to follow through with various threads. Overall, the whole affair is boring, uninspired, and bland. Just watch A Girl Walks Home Alone at Midnight or a Roman Polanski film instead.

We Are What We Are (2013): Watch it.

Image result for we are what we are

There’s certainly a lot of cannibal horror movies out there, but this one manages to be unique. The plot involves a family in a small town who lose their maternal figure and must figure out how to survive and move on while maintaining their, uh, lifestyle. The film keeps many aspects of their cannibalism — why, how, when, what they are — under wraps, and only addresses some of these questions by the end. However, the story unveils itself in such a way that the unanswered aspects work well in keeping you interested but not rolling your eyes. I didn’t like the way the ending played out, and there is some flash detective work that inevitably got my eyes rolling, but aside from this I very much enjoyed the movie.

Hush (2016): Watch it.

Image result for hush

Everyone’s been raving about this home invasion movie, which unfortunately is not exactly a good thing. This film is not as fantastic and revolutionary within the genre as most imply. The main character is deaf, which is the big gimmick that’s meant to add that extra intriguing dimension to this movie. Is it interesting? Yes, actually. However, in the end it never surpassed B-movie status for me. It just seemed like a well-made B slasher/home invasion movie with an interesting gimmick that only acceptably carried the movie. Nevertheless, I do think this movie is worth watching if you’re into slashers or home invasion plots, you will be entertained and perhaps even frightened, but in the end I can’t say this movie is exceptionally different or noteworthy compared to other entries in the subgenre, like The Strangers or Funny Games, for instance.

The horror found footage film As Above, So Below (2014) received quite a bit of attention two years ago while in theaters, and it’s oft been recommended to me since. I’m a fan of found footage, despite the usual infuriating nature of the genre, so I’d been interested in seeing this for a while. The premise of the film is intriguing, especially considering the set is actually the Catacombs, which also then means that many of the bones and skeletons are probably real. Pretty darn spooky, right? If dusty calcium scares you.

In the end, I can’t say that this is a good horror movie, but I was engaged. The beginning of the film is incredibly slow, however once it picks up it did keep my attention. The main character Scarlett is an academic wizard who thankfully is an expert in… symbology, which I suppose is the justification for how she’s able to interpret the hieroglyphics on the Catacomb walls to mean some pretty absurd things. She rattles off her interpretations in rapid-fire whispers that barely make sense, and the viewer must just accept that she is right because otherwise they’re fucked and the plot must go on, afterall. There is a moment where she attributes the phrase “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” to mythology, and as a massive literature nerd, I cringed pretty hard. I imagine most of what she says is similarly cringe-worthy. But it is a horror movie, so I accepted Scarlett’s rants and hoped for scary imagery.

The movie provided. The Catacombs look amazing, and while I didn’t find the jump scares effective and grew tired of them, the creatures are eerie-looking and the shadows and CGI worked well (meaning it was not particularly excessive). Many of the scenes are framed nicely and the overall aesthetics and appearance of everything works. I would say this is the strongest aspect of the whole movie—the visuals and setting.


Someone’s family, once

Eventually I began to believe the movie was self-aware and purposefully loading itself up with tropes for sheer amusement. This is not art. Some of the scenes are so ridiculous that they are laughable. A particular scene features Scarlett essentially getting a star in Mario and going back through the tunnels they just spent 45 minutes of film time traveling through, then Mario-starring it back again.

Also, the film doesn’t really try to make the camera situation make sense. Some may find this irritating.  Many found footage films attempt to explain where the footage is coming from, how they were able to get certain angles and shots, but that doesn’t really happen here in a convincing manner. I wasn’t really bothered much by this, as in the end the whole premise is ridiculous and I just wanted to see spooky things.

If you want your movies to make sense, then this isn’t really the film for you. There’s a long list of nonsensical, bad moments in this movie. But if you enjoy found footage irregardless and want to see a horror film shot in an interesting setting with some cool scenes, then this will surely entertain you—enough.



The 2013 film The Den, directed by Zachary Donohue, has been sitting in my Netflix list for a while now. Found footage films usually appeal to me, but the premise and look of the movie reminded me too much of Feardotcom, so it stirred up some traumatic flashbacks of a horrible fucking movie. Also, there’s a creepypasta vibe to the plot as well, and that’s not exactly a great sign. A woman named Elizabeth is doing a project involving a social media website called, of course, “The Den” (which has such a creepy connotation, no one would ever name their site that), so she’s chatting constantly with strangers at random via webcam. Cue: Snuff! Torture! Hacking! This is the kind of stuff Reddit users are squirming excitedly over when they’re writing about the “deep web.”

And yet, despite these damning details, this horror movie is actually good.

To deflect all protests of, “Nobody uses videochat this much!” I give you this: Imagine a world where…. people did. This is a fictional movie, after all, and the idea is not really that unbelievable. Also, the frequent use of Snapchat is comparable, so combine that with Omegle and Skype, and voila, you have “The Den.” Yeah, people don’t actually do what the characters in the movie do, but just pretend this is happening 10 years in the future or something.

The format of the movie is really interesting, and almost identically resembles the clips I’ve seen from the film Unfriended (2014). Since I haven’t actually seen Unfriended, I can’t say which movie did it better. The Den does a pretty damn good job of it though, all of the events of the film being shown via desktop and phone cam. There is a combination of text and video alongside each other as well. The whole format made my brain feel like I wasn’t watching a movie. The familiar image of the mouse moving across the screen, scrolling through email, all of that had this effect of making me feel as if I was just perusing the internet—and coming across some fucked up stuff. A different feel than the average movie experience.

Aww! Look, how about you come over to my place, and you can kill me. Sound good? 😉

The thing that I found really made it a good horror movie was the timing and pacing. There is some humor that really helps you relax (THERE’S A PENIS HOLY SHIT THERE’S AN ACTUAL PENIS, IT’S JUST LIKE IRL) before fucking with you again, ever so briefly, then returning back to normal. For veterans of the interwebs, this is a day in the life. Horrifying fucked up shit—a meme. Whatever. The escalation of the conflict is well-paced and unnerving, subtle but effective.

Then there’s what nobody ever comes across (well, aside from things like the Dnepropetrovsk maniacs video and the unfortunate like), an oddly exciting topic for us sick millenials—a snuff video. The way the movie goes about doing this was actually pretty scary; particularly, I enjoyed the coupling of sound and still images, or mismatched sound with video. The photo of the smiling girl creeped me out more than any of the stuff at the end of the movie, and when that suddenly shifted to video, I was surprisingly disturbed.

And then we hit our peak of realism for this movie, something extremely rare when it comes to horror movies….

Elizabeth immediately goes to the police.

Well, thank god. This didn’t make the movie go from zero to stupid fantasy world immediately, thus I remained into the movie. And it makes some sense the police can’t do much about a vague video online. It’s hard to say if the police reaction is realistic at first. By the end of the movie I was like, “Okay, these guys are just fucking idiots.” But cops do suck, so I suppose that common knowledge is enough to allow it to make some sense. However, the presence of cops still ends up defusing any possible realistic quality by the end of the movie. This is one of the big issues with horror movies. When they don’t call the cops, it’s like. “What the fuck?” But then when they do, the response and outcomes also don’t make sense.

…. That’s a really defined nose for a head in a burlap sack.

The ending was a bit drawn out, but I actually liked it. Yeah, obviously that would never happen, blah blah blah, but I still think the final scene was a nice end to the movie, and I also wasn’t quite expecting it.

Despite the fact that I thought this was a great horror movie, I must complain about two things: God! The video static and glitches! Cutting in and out! Is there no way to escape this? Even on a webcam? Why does every found footage movie have to contain this?! I didn’t mind it before, but I’m beginning to grow irritated at its presence in movies. Also, putting GoPros on the victims heads? I think this could have been thought out a little differently, but whatever, I took it in stride.

The idea of hacking and people outcomputering you has been topical for a while. Everyone’s Uncle Bobby is terrified of viruses and hackers, and with the whole NSA business, the film strikes a nerve involving webcams and the internet. Truly, there is a lot of potential for fucked up shit on the internet. This we can all agree on. Mix all that in with well-timed scares and plot pacing, effectively constructed format, and you have a movie worth watching.

The Den is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

I had a lot of trouble locating a copy of Goodnight Mommy (2014), or Ich Seh, Ich Seh. The film came out in Austria last year, however the American release is scheduled for September 11, 2015 (um…. really?), so I needed to find an Austrian copy with English subtitles. As a frequent flyer at Kick Ass Torrents, I didn’t know Pirate Bay had changed their URL. It wasn’t on KAT, I couldn’t get Pirate Bay to load, so I spent a lot of time dicking around online looking for it and failing. I did find one file, but the subtitles were in some Eastern European language and I slapped my hands on the desk in frustration. After whining about this on Twitter, @SubtleManias linked me to the Pirate Bay file that I had completely missed.

So, was this search worth it? A lot of Americans are claiming this is the scariest movie ever made, somehow just from seeing the trailer.


As to be expected from most hype, this is all false. The movie was not even remotely close to being the scariest movie EVAR, and I wonder if it can even be considered scary at all. Disturbing? Yes. Most definitely disturbing. But not necessarily scary. Good? Well, I’m not so sure even that. I can’t say it was bad.

The movie, directed by Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz, takes place in an empty, quiet rural town in Austria. In the beginning, we see two creepy identical twins wandering the scenic countryside, fading into the darkness of tunnels and milling about. When they get home, we find out that their horrifying and skeletal mother has received some sort of face-plant surgery, her face wrapped in bandages, and we receive some information that a divorce and accident occurred recently. Whatever the accident was, it led to the mom’s surgery. 

Do I look creepy enough for you?

The mom is immediately a steely bitch, and the twins begin to assert that she is acting differently and therefore is probably not their mother. So where is their real mother? This is a question they ask repeatedly throughout the film. The viewers are left wondering for the majority of the movie, Is that their real mother? There is evidence that falls on both sides of the issue, so it’s difficult to be absolutely certain either way, though I developed my theories early on and I ended up being right. So the ending was predictable, and I think most people who view this movie will figure out what is actually happening within the first 20 minutes.

The tropes and devices are just so obvious. The alternative explanations are just sitting there behind every action, and the viewer can infer easily what is going on, though to the film’s credit there is enough doubt maintained that there is some uncertainty until you find out that, hey, actually, you were right and it wasn’t as complex as you thought it might turn out to be. I can appreciate that the movie was able to nurse that sense of doubt, but I can’t say that’s enough to make the outcome satisfying.

Everything about the movie is creepy and confusing. As predictable as the ending is, it’s disconnect with certain scenes throughout the movie allow the confusion to continue after the film. I had SO many questions when the credits began to roll that I couldn’t possibly be happy. There are scenes in this movie that are so random, so bizarre, that it seems they are just in the movie to make the viewer squirm and go, What the fuck!? But if those scenes aren’t relevant to the overall plot, then is that good film-making? I have to say no.

To be fair, there are also some things I misunderstood due to cultural differences. I had a fit wondering about a random scene where the twin boys climb up some human bones and skulls, only to inquire online and find out that in places like Austria there are old communal tombs where the remains of peasants are placed. Oh. Ohhhhh. Okay. Still don’t get why there’s a scene where the boys are climbing in one of those tombs, but okay.

You might be safer just not having kids.

The look and setting of this movie are amazing though. The house is so cold and strange, the furniture and placement of things within it so intense. The mother was a television personality and model of some sort, and there are creepy, blurry photos of her throughout the house that no one would ever put up on a wall. There are dolls sitting around the stones of their fireplace. All of the external walls seem to be blinds, so with a flick the walls can all be windows. The mother herself looks perfectly creepy, and those kids are creepy as hell as well.

The creepiness does beat you over the head, though. Halfway through the film, I was going, “I get it! Everything is creepy! Creepiness! Creepy mom and kids! Will something just happen?!”

Stuff does happen, though it’s not until there are ten minutes left in the movie. The ending is extreme, and the brief violence is enough to make someone cover their face or turn away from the screen. The bloodiness is effective. The person I was watching the movie with stood up and walked to the other side of the room during one scene, but came back to really have nothing else too extreme happen.

Although I see this film being advertised and discussed as truly horrifying, I don’t think this film is going to go over well with an American audience. It’s far too slow, too little happens. It’s simply too strange. I would say that if you are a fan of horror movies, you should watch it, because it’s atmospherically interesting, but it’s not even the best of its kind. I would much rather watch Funny Games, or Hard Candy, or The Strangers.

I do kind of want to watch it again one day, however. So there is that.

If you do watch it, make sure you pay close attention to the ending. There is a detail in there that can be missed that is pretty important.

I’m not entirely sure if I liked the movie Creep (2014). I didn’t hate it, at least, that’s a definite. That probably doesn’t sound very reassuring, however.

Hmmm. I’d trust him.

This found footage horror movie has an impressive Rotten Tomatoes score for the genre—92%! This is also impressive when one realizes that this film has a whopping two actors in it, plus a voice over the phone, if you want to count that. So here we have a found footage movie with two actors and tons of dialogue. Horror movies usually don’t go over well with critics, so what’s the deal here?

Well, this movie is probably the least “horrific” found footage that I’ve watched. The whole thing is more similar to the movie Exhibit A—both are arguably not horror movies, though I personally say that they are—but Exhibit A only gets a 52% on Rotten Tomatoes, a pretty big difference. I would say that Creep is more of a horror movie than Exhibit A, even. Why is one more successful than the other, then? They’re both unsettling movies told with handhelds and limited actors. They’re both about disturbed individuals.

I think it ends up coming down to the endings here. The biggest strong-point of the film Creep—so big that many probably forgive it of its weakness because of this—is its ending. The ending contains an incredible scene, both horrific and hilarious. The whole movie is a black comedy, but funny in a bleak, morbid, awkward way. All of this awkward humor and nervous laughter adds up to a great conclusion that sort of turns everything on its head and pokes fun at itself. That’s something Exhibit A definitely lacks, with its seriousness and hit or miss ending, even though the whole situation is far more believable. Endings are pretty important, and most horror films, honestly, don’t have very great endings. A good ending can make a lot of difference with the reviews. And it’s not even the most original ending; it’s pretty predictable. But the execution of the whole thing, and Mark Duplass’s acting in the role of Josef really makes it far more entertaining than it would have been otherwise.

And that’s the positive part of this review. Now, let’s get a bit more critical.

Creep is technically a mumblegore movie, a genre I wasn’t really familiar with until recently. Honestly, it all just seems synonymous with cheap, and to get literal, yes, there is indeed mumbling. The audio was poor enough that I had to put on sub-titles to understand what the characters were saying. As for the gore, there really isn’t any here. I don’t think there is a drop of blood in this movie, actually.

What there is a lot of is jump scares. And I mean a lot—of the same variety, from the same source, and incredibly cheap. Literally the equivalent of jumping out from behind a corner and going, “BAH!” The jumps are so bad and cheesy that I can imagine it would draw a lot of people out of this movie immediately (so the 92% on Rotten Tomatoes…?). Really, these cheap scares end up having a lot to do with the psychology behind Josef’s character, so when you look back at them they are actually more complex than they initially appear, but that still doesn’t make them good.

Honestly, how I felt throughout the majority of the film

At first, it’s pretty easy to suspend your disbelief with the plot. Aaron is hired from a Craigslist ad by a man named Josef, who is dying of cancer and whose wife is pregnant, so he wants someone to record his life for a little while to make a little movie for his son, so one day his son can see the kind of man he was. Okay, I buy it. Right off the bat, Josef seems a little weird, and that gradually builds up until the inevitable happens and you find out what you already knew, really—that he’s batshit crazy. As this craziness progresses, the film loses a lot of it’s believability. This is covered up somewhat by humor, and eventually lampshaded completely. It doesn’t make sense that Aaron wouldn’t contact someone and let them know where he is and what he’s doing. He waits way too long to call the cops, and by the time he does call the cops they don’t take him seriously or do anything. But of course, in reality, he would have gone to the police station and actually given them the footage. But whatever. It’s a movie, blah blah blah. If it wasn’t for the well-done lampshading scene at the end, I probably would have thrown my hands up and written off the whole thing, so the director clearly knew what he was doing by adding that in.

The movie is very different from others of its kind. It’s a slow-burner and the what the fuck level is very high, but its honestly funny in such an uncomfortable way. It’s definitely not a good movie, but I would say it’s worth watching, as long as you’re prepared to see a black, awkward, disheartening comedy and not a typical horror movie.

When it comes to the disturbing factor—because of course, I’m a horror fan, I want to be disturbed—I suggest you would be better off watching Exhibit A. Or you could just watch both! Have a creepy hand-held camera back-to-back movie night. Hell, I’d attend. If you do end up doing this, of course, please let me know, as I would love to hear someone else’s input on this.

Creep can currently be found on Netflix.

“Let’s just stop and ask her for directions. It’ll be fine!”

Not everyone enjoys the found footage genre, but it’s one of my favorites and I’ve been trying to watch them all. The genre definitely has its annoying tropes—Shaky cam! Glitchy footage! Where did the tape come from anyway?—though as long as you don’t find those absolutely unbearable, it’s better to embrace them as a means to an end. Horror movies don’t really work without tropes that glue shit together. There’s a lot of things that need to be ignored in order for certain plots to unfold, most notably common sense. Found footage films often require the viewer to grant more allowances, and I can understand why that would be a problem for some people, particularly those that suck at suspending their disbelief. I think it’s the creativity often employed in making found footage somehow work that draws me to these movies.

The film Grave Encounters (2011) is a popular mention and a personal favorite within the genre. The reasons I enjoy the movie so much are 1) the concept is simple but fun, and 2) the characters are for the most part so unlikable that it’s entertaining to watch them gradually lose their minds. Unlikable characters sound like a bad thing, but when you put them in a certain setting then some fun can result, and setting is a strongpoint in this movie. I’m going to go so far as to say that there is even a theme (oh god, my English teacher is showing). The characters are unimpressed with the paranormal activity they witness near the beginning, and they try to find bigger and better scares for their television show. They yell into the darkness and huff and complain. Appreciate what you get! Don’t ask for too much! Because they all certainly get more.

The plot of the film involves a paranormal reality show crew exploring an abandoned hospital (in reality, the Riverview Hospital, a really beautiful building). The host is Lance Preston, a whiny douche bag, who is accompanied by a faux psychic who is equally as whiny, a tiny whiny woman who is an occult specialist, a derpy surveillance guy, and then the only reasonable person in the whole group, cameraman T.C. This leaves us with a group of pretty aggravating people and one sensible person who needs to be there because we need to feel bad for somebody. This is the type of horror movie that operates on the idea that the viewer is going to want horrible things to happen to some of these people—they deserve it for whatever reason—and they will have to face the consequences for the mistakes they make, the mistakes that are causing you to scream at your television, “What are you doing? Don’t do that!”

The biggest “Don’t Do That” being that they lock themselves inside the vast haunted mental asylum. Don’t do that! And don’t trust the suspiciously clueless Kenny the Caretaker with the keys!

The whole affair starts off with a rather lame preface where a guy tells the viewer that they received a tape in the mail, and what you are about to watch are the contents of that tape. Thanks, demonic entities, for editing the footage! It’s amazing what ghosts can do with technology nowadays.

Once the crew is locked in, there are shots of grainy greenish dark camera footage as they film various spots throughout the hospital, looking for paranormal signs. They are seeking something out, and we wait for them to find it. When they finally breach the point of no return through their own stupidity, despite faking competence during the ghost hunt, the crew can’t even handle the tiniest unexplained thing. When things do get real, the film becomes similar to The Blair Witch Project in that there are a lot of arguments, and people arguing over what to do.

The twist is surprisingly unsettling in its simplicity, and the ensuing chaos produces a lot of good jump scares. The deaths in this movie are not great, the ending draws itself out unnecessarily, and the surveillance guy’s craziness is too much, but when it comes to how scary and unnerving I find the movie, I am very content with how I felt throughout. The setting in the movie makes a huge difference, because the building is really just perfect for a haunting, and scenic to boot. The overall aesthetic and atmosphere make the contents work very well for their purposes. I wish the movie hadn’t thrown away its “less is more” card at the end, but this is still one of the most enjoyable horror movies that I’ve yet seen.

I don’t really believe that there is such a thing as a horror movie masterpiece, because I haven’t yet watched a horror movie that didn’t have obvious flaws. I really only ever want to know, will it make me nervous, and scared, or jumpy? Will I not be incredibly angry at the end? Perhaps my expectations are low, but you have to look at a genre for what it is, and horror is not drama. When it comes to my litmus test, Grave Encounters passes.

I have heard through the grapevine (that grapevine being DreadIt) that when it comes to Asian horror flicks, the 2004 original Thai version of Shutter is incredibly scary. I am always eager and willing to watch Eastern horror for the reason that they often don’t focus so much on the slash and kill aspect, but rely heavily on disturbing imagery and psychological dread (excluding, of course, those fantastic Korean revenge films which are amazing in entirely different ways). The deaths are often more creative and strange, and I want strange when I watch a horror movie. Strangeness in itself can be pretty horrifying, when done right.

A new Instagram feature: Auto Ghost!

Unfortunately for me, I saw the 2008 American version of Shutter in theaters. While The Ring is arguably of equivalent quality to Ringu, and The Grudge is almost as good as Ju-On, the American version of Shutter (same name) stars Joshua Jackson of Dawson’s Creek fame and it is just absolute garbage. The plot is the same however, which means that going into the good version I already knew exactly what was going to happen. The end reveal is much better executed in the Thai film, so I feel as if I lost some of the unnerving jolt of it by already expecting it. The image was already in my head, so seeing the image lost some of its impact.

The film is very along the same lines as Ringu and Ju-On, meaning pale girl with long black hair creeping around and ruining everyone’s day, but despite focusing on this same trope, the scares do work. There are two particular images that are extremely unsettling. The first is a jump scare, an unexpected movement in a photograph, that is startling because it has you focusing closely on a small segment of the photo before the movement occurs. The second comes from a series of photographs, much later in the film, and the movement involved in this one has quite a creepy look that is just fun to watch.

The scares and imagery, then: fabulous.

The plot, however, has some strange holes.

The one thing that left me confused and distracted for a large portion of the movie involves the car accident that occurs at the beginning of the movie. The lead male Tun and his girlfriend Jane are drunk driving and hit a woman, and when weird things start happening, Jane believes they are being haunted by the woman they accidentally murdered. Things are not this simple, however, because there is another woman who committed suicide, and that whole story is the majority of the movie’s focus. So, what’s with the hit and run earlier? The second woman had already committed suicide by the time of the accident, so did they hit this woman’s ghost? I believe this event may have sparked Jane’s discovery of the Big Horrible Scene that occurs later in the film, but that’s my one theory. If anyone else has any other ideas about these seemingly two separate deaths, then I would love to hear them.

Shutter is a good horror movie and it makes you jump. Those into more hardcore horror may be unimpressed, but a fan of ghosts and the supernatural will surely find themselves scared.

To be safe, as a general rule of thumb, I suggest watching the original before the American version, when it comes to any movie. Even if the remake turns out to be good, at least you’ll go into the original blind just in case it’s not.

“You’re the best damn partner I ever had, Triceracop.”

Contrary to the title, it turns out that the raptors are loyal. Incredibly loyal. The movie Jurassic World (2015) had me doubting them for a little while, made me question the integrity of all velociraptors, but they did indeed manage to come through in the end.

If the T-Rex is the poster boy for the entire Jurassic franchise, then it’s also true to say that the raptors have been a secondary lead in the previous installments. This makes the ending of Jurassic World make a little sense, when it comes to contributing to existing content. Other than that, it doesn’t make any sense at all. A T-Rex somehow communicating with some raptors to take out the true Big Bad? Yeah… okay. I guess it is some sort of interesting inverse of the ending of the original movie. And when I imagine people sitting around a table and figuring out what another Jurassic movie needs, I can see them going, “What if the raptors and the T-Rex teamed up to fight an enemy? HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE? HOW COOL WOULD THAT BE?” And so, a certain script was made. And it is ridiculous, but kind of awesome, and kind of cool. I mean, I did get excited when Claire came up with a plan and I realized that it would involve the T-Rex. The excitement managed to allow me to enjoy what was going on, despite the fact that Claire sucked, and she was outrunning the King of all dinosaurs in heels.

The humans in the movie are worth less attention than these dinos. I don’t think I liked a single character in this movie. The character Owen Grady played by Chris Pratt was more comparable to Kung Fury than Dr. Alan Grant. The park’s operations manager Claire, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, is horrible and annoying. There’s a painful sexual interest between the two, and an equally painful scene near the beginning where Claire is trying to do her job and Owen suggests they discuss the topic—in his bungalow.

Sexual harassment! Always endearing and hilarious.

Kids are always annoying in films, because kids in general are just plain annoying, but there’s something especially grating about Gray and Zach. There’s a particular scene that acts as a pathetic attempt at character development for these two brothers, where the younger one starts weeping and going on about how their parents were getting divorced, and the older one talks about how now they’ll have two Christmases.

First, when the parents are shown earlier, there is no apparent tension between the two. Second, the divorce is never mentioned again throughout the entire film. Nothing else really happens in this scene either—it’s pointless, and forces you to look at the little boy’s weird mouth contortion that happens every time he cries in the movie (he cries a lot, until the dinosaurs start attacking—then it’s all bro hugs and smiles).

When it comes to the CEO of the park, Simon Masrani, I… think that the viewers are supposed to admire him as he dies? He’s trying to save people—I think? Really, the man looks like an idiot the entire time. And the villain, Vic Hoskins, is definitely skeezy, but the skeeziness is so over the top he’s more like a cartoon villain than anything.

As for the violence, I don’t find it particularly noteworthy. I didn’t find Zara’s death excessively cruel, unlike some others, though it is the worst death in the film. It’s not really much worse than Richard Schiff’s death in The Lost World (being ripped in half by two T-Rexes), despite the perspective difference. I don’t believe that one should expect a predictable death formula in a film, a death that is attached to some moral concept. Some people’s deaths are going to be worse, some are going to be better. The deaths might be too much for some children, but if a parent takes their kids to a movie about dinosaurs on the loose and doesn’t expect there to be some violent deaths, then they weren’t really thinking things through.

The original movie is a classic. Everything that came after it has been using its predecessor’s status as a classic to make money off some dinosaurs. The first two movies at least have Michael Crichton books as some source material, but this is what happens when writers come together to capitalize off people’s memories of prior films. If you want to see dinosaurs fight and rampage, this is a good movie to see. If you want some quality storytelling, then you might just want to watch the original Jurassic Park with surround sound and a big screen television.


I have seen two Irish horror films at this point in my life, the first being the amusing Grabbers (2012), which is far more comedic monster movie than true horror, then just yesterday The Canal (2014), directed by Ivan Kavanagh. The plot of the latter film is typical, one that has been done in various ways a number of times, but there’s enough unique about the execution that it sets itself apart from similar movies.

In The Canal, film archivist David Williams suspects his wife of cheating on him—already you may see where this is going. There aren’t many directions for that sort of introduction to go. The question of the movie is how demented and/or guilty David really is, the alternate villain being presented in an old film reel about a murder that occurred back in 1902. The driving question leads our protagonist to cutting out newspaper clippings and printing photos to tack up on his bedroom wall because there is a mystery to solve. When someone starts sticking newspaper clippings to a wall, we know some screws are about to get loose.

The strongest quality of this movie is the atmospheric dread, not so much the actual horror of what’s seen. Someone who isn’t so hung up on atmosphere in horror movies may find the film dull because there are scenes that work well simply because of the lighting, the camera angle and the position and timing of things. Certain scenes are also cut at startling points. There is a moment where David is putting his head up against a wall to listen (listening for something that I honestly couldn’t really hear), when suddenly the scene cuts to the wife zipping up the son’s jacket. The shift in lighting and sound is startling, particularly because at that point the viewer had just been prompted to listen closely. This is the film’s main tactic in producing jump scares and it’s rather effective.

The film reminded me of Lake Mungo in the way that the thing on screen we’re supposed to see is often very unclear, or perhaps not even there at all. When David hears noises, is the sound truly perceptible to the viewer? When he sees things, are they even actually there? Often it looks like something might be there, and sometimes something actually is. It’s like pulling up a random “When You See It, You’ll Shit Bricks” picture on the internet without knowing how fruitful the search will be but looking anyway. The inconsistency has its pay-off, for I found the moments when something sinister is lurking toward the camera truly unnerving.

A lot of the dread in the movie works because the plot plants a question in the viewer’s mind, as well as an expectation, and leaves you looking for evidence. The evidence concerning the issue of reality isn’t solid and enough umheimlich is mixed in to add to the uncertainty. There will be a normal scene, with the sun shining and some human interaction, then it shifts into a scene where some visual is off, like the presence of colorful drapes all over the house interior (whoa, hey, does this dude actually put drapes over everything or is this a hallucination?), then to another normal scene, then to batshit colorful craziness.

There’s a kid too, and you only want to punch him a little bit.

One small detail that stuck in my memory as particularly effective was in a scene where David is talking to the young babysitter. They finish talking and she leaves the room, closes the door, but then the camera cuts without ever showing the door close all the way or giving auditory evidence of this. David sits there, looking tormented and exhausted, and I was left feeling as if the door might still be open—but I don’t actually know. The uncertainty of this was surprisingly nerve-wracking and I didn’t feel safe for him because anything could just walk right in.

The beginning and middle of the movie is far stronger than the end. It’s the ending that prevents this movie from being great. There were several points where the film could have ended but the scenes kept going. The final scene was too ridiculous for me to walk away happy. Some movies just need to know when to end. But I am forgiving of this two minute finale and overall I believe The Canal was a good, creepy horror film that lacked a serious punch.


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