In Review: The Night House

Look, between David Bruckner’s new supernatural thriller The Night House and Sean Durkin’s unsettling psychological character study Martha Marcy May Marlene, I think I’m all set on ever visiting the Catskills. But while Durkin used the environment to set a mood with just a dash of horror, Bruckner’s effort is much easier placed within the genre’s safe zones. And there are many other horror films that it will make you remember. Set in the idyllic lakeside of the New York woodlands, The Night House has terror lurking just beneath its beautiful surface, and delivers some spunky atmospherics that diminish the basicness of some of its genre conventions.

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In Review: Censor

Naked nostalgia in genre filmmaking has become one of the more instantly off-putting modes in recent genre filmmaking. Constantly serving us the same broad reference points without a context to make them interesting, the lingering trend relies on our enthusiasm and knowledgeability for the genre to gas up unfulfilling stories. Results have been self-serving, and too often unable to produce something terrifying thanks to too much mimicry. Censor is a thornier horror retread however, with more specific influences on its mind and a perspective on how to incorporate them in an original way.

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In Review: “47 Meters Down”

47 Meters Down is an oceanic disaster film so morose and shoddy that it begs for some levity. With only a handful of cliched jump scares and general lack of visual tension, there’s a lot of room for your mind to wander to lighten the mood over its lethargic 89 minutes. For example, which Mandy Moore track do sharks prefer: “In My Pocket” or “Candy”? What would the film be like with a commentary by Brian Fellows? “Does that shark have arms?”

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In Review!: “Raw”

Crashing in on a giant red wave of French extremity, Raw is one nastily daring debut from Julia Ducournau. Hazing rituals of a veterinary college make for a morbid playground of sexuality, feminism, and subversion in this body horror wonder, as smart as it is profane. As freshman Justine (Garance Marillier) struggles to assimilate to the indoctrination, she feels a growing urge for human flesh – but is this born of stress or a dormant natural instinct? Is it a coping mechanism or an exercise of self-actualization?

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In Review!: “The Witch”

Winner of Best Director at last year’s Sundance Film Festival for former production designer and debut wunderkind Robert Eggers, The Witch is a jaw-dropper about a pre-revolutionary colonial family’s implosion after banishment from their settlement for unspecified contrarian religious practices. The family quickly unravels once hunger, lack of resources, and claustrophobic isolation settles in. Oh and also those satanic forces lurking in the surrounding woods. A nightmare-inducing formalist stunner, Egger’s debut is robust with context and deep with emotion before the scares even take their ruthless hold.

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These sentiments are not to discount the chills generated by the film, for they are varied and relentless. The initial tone is like an apparition following you up a flight of stairs or entering an illogically frigid room; something unnatural is making its presence known before fully revealing itself. Once that presence does (and far sooner than expected), the scares run the gamut from moodily vicious to spiritually paralyzing, with a decent peppering of jump scares. The Witch terrifies so deeply by shocking you differently at each turn. Never have barn animals been so demonically unsettling.

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